Anti-US rhetoric provides boost to Maduro's popularity

| Apr. 22, 2015 | England

Published by Economist Intelligence Unit


The approval ratings of the president, Nicolás Maduro, have risen for a third consecutive month, to 28.2%, in the wake of sanctions against Venezuela by the US and anti-imperialist rhetoric from the government.


The latest poll, completed at the end of March by a respected local pollster, Datanálisis, found that the president's approval ratings had risen by more than 3 percentage points from the previous month, up significantly from a low of 22.8% last November. Just under 80% of the 1,000 people polled viewed the situation in Venezuela as negative, down significantly from 87.9% last month. Just under 20% of those polled viewed the situation in the country as positive, up from 11.2% the previous month.

Conversely, approval ratings for Mr Maduro's primary foes in the opposition—Leopoldo López, who remains in jail, and Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate—have fallen. The report shows a somewhat surprising rise in popularity for the embattled president, in a country where citizens face roughly 70% annual inflation, shortages of many basic products—with supermarket lines in the hundreds, if not thousands—and one of the world's highest murder rates.

In March Venezuela ordered the US embassy to downsize. It was given two weeks to cut more than 100 staff to just 17. US visitors would now also require visas. In response, US authorities declared Venezuela a threat to national security and imposed sanctions on seven top Venezuelan officials, accused of violating human rights and engaging in corruption. In a show of defiance, a handful of these officials were made ministers, and Mr Maduro pushed for a 10m-signatory petition against what he described as US imperialism.

Goading of the US by Mr Maduro—and the US response—appears to have helped the president to rally support. However, it is unlikely to be enough to significantly boost approval ratings ahead of legislative elections taking place towards the end of 2015.

Impact on the forecast

Despite some improvement in Mr Maduro's popularity and a weakened opposition, we continue to believe that the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) is likely to experience significant electoral losses in the upcoming legislative elections and lose control of the legislative branch. This would be a major blow to the government, and to Mr Maduro's hopes of winning a second term in the December 2018 presidential elections.