Despite Nicaragua’s steady economic expansion in recent years, a growing number of Nicaraguans—particularly non-Sandinistas— are feeling pinched in the wallet, anxious about finding employment, and worried about making ends meet, according to a new CID-Gallup poll.
For the past two years, a record number of Nicaraguans claimed their family’s economic situation was improving. It was a positive balance that bucked historic trends, considering an overwhelming majority consistently claimed their economic situation was worsening in every poll from 1995 to 2010. But the momentary uptick in economic confidence is back on the downslide, according to CID-Gallup.
In a poll released last week, CID-Gallup found that 33% of the population feels their economic situation is “worse” now than it was in 2012, while 24% say their situation has improved and 43% think it’s the same. Those who say their economic situation is improving are predominantly Sandinistas, the polling firm found.
“Among those who identify as Sandinistas, there are still more people who say they are better off, while the majority of those who don’t identify with any political party say they are in bad shape,” reads the CID-Gallup report, which surveyed 1,210 voting-age Nicaraguans from across the country between May 2-8. The survey claims a 95% confidence level.
The results of economic survey questions show Nicaraguans are feeling less confident about the economy and more concerned about their cost of living and ability to find gainful employment. Yet despite the waning confidence, the recent shift in the polling numbers is relative to the historic highs of the past two years. Most Nicaraguans still feel better about their economic prospects than they did during any moment between 1995 and 2010, according to CID-Gallup’s comparative polling data.
For example, when asked to identify the “principal problem facing Nicaragua,” 42% of the population in this month’s CID-Gallup poll answered “the lack of employment.” That represents a dramatic spike in concern for employment from just two years ago, when 31% identified the lack of jobs as the country’s main problem. But it’s still considerably less than it was in the mid 1990s, when 72% of Nicaraguans said employment was the main problem facing their country.
Equally telling is the employment situation of those surveyed in this month’s CID-Gallup poll. Of the 1,201 people polled, 49% said they don’t work at all, 30% said they work for themselves (mostly in the informal economy, presumably), and only 20% said they have employment (15% in the private sector and 5% for the government).
CID-Gallup says the growing concern over employment could be explained partially by the fact that slumping economies in the United States and Costa Rica are no longer able to absorb as many Nicaraguan workers as in the past.
“In recent years there hasn’t been as much opportunity to find employment in Costa Rica and the United States, so many Nicaraguans have had to look for work in their own economy, which is creating jobs but not at the rhythm the population needs,” CID-Gallup reports.
Overall, the polling firm found than 63% of the population believes the economic situation in the country “represents the most relevant obstacle to improving people’s quality of life.”
But when asked to identify their family’s top concern (as opposed to the nation’s), Nicaraguans point to very basic needs: cost of living (38%), unemployment (14%) and lack of drinking water (10%).
A startling 45% of Nicaraguans say the cost of living has increased so much that they don’t always have enough money to buy food. And nearly two-thirds of Nicaraguans say they occasionally endure extended water shortages, when all they can do is “hope it comes back on.”
Despite the pressing issues facing many Nicaraguan households, half the population still thinks the country is on the right track and 66% of Nicaraguans still approve of President Daniel Ortega’s job performance after more than six years in office, according to CID-Gallup.
While Nicaraguans’ concerns over the economy and cost of living have not yet tipped public opinion against Ortega’s government, CID-Gallup pollsters note that the gap between those who approve and those who disapprove is starting to narrow.
“There is a gradual change in opinion over the direction of the country; in 2012, there was as 25 point different between those who thought the country was on the right track and those who thought the country was on the wrong track. Now that difference has closed to 13 points,” CID-Gallup reports. “The economic situation of the country, especially the issue of unemployment, is hitting people hard and the cost of living continues to climb.”