Views of Venezuela's Chavez Have Hardened in the Region -- and at Home

  • February 10, 2009
  • By Kathleen Holzwart

On February 15, Venezuelans will head to the polls to vote on a constitutional amendment that would eliminate term limits for the office of president, permitting current President Hugo Chavez to seek a third term. Since he was first elected in 1999, Chavez has often portrayed himself as a regional leader, at the forefront of a new era of Latin American populism. However, in many Latin American countries, Chavez fails to inspire much confidence. In fact, polling by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project suggests that negative views of Chavez are on the rise in several key Latin American nations.

Among his fellow Venezuelans, a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that Chavez was relatively popular. However, as discussed further below, more recent polls suggest that Venezuelans are closely divided over his rule.

Elsewhere in the region, the 2007 survey found little confidence in Chavez to do the right thing in world affairs among the Latin American countries surveyed. In fact, fewer than one-in-five said they have confidence in Chavez's ability as a global leader in Brazil (17%), Mexico (17%), Peru (15%) and Chile (14%). Even in the country led by one of Chavez's closest allies -- Bolivia's Evo Morales -- only one-third expressed confidence in the Venezuelan leader. Opinions about Chavez were more mixed in Argentina, where nearly as many expressed confidence as lacked confidence (40% vs. 43%, respectively).

Read the full report Views of Venezuela's Chavez Have Hardened in the Region— and at Home on the Pew Research Center's Web site.