The 2021 iteration of the AmericasBarometer survey found that support for democracy is waning across the Americas. It also found that respondents from 18 out of 22 countries believe their government leaders are corrupt and cannot be trusted.

More than 60,000 voting-age adults across North, Central and South America – including the Caribbean – were interviewed in the poll. According to poll results, only 63 percent of respondents from Canada to Chile expressed support for democracy in 2021.

The 2021 survey result aligned with those of earlier AmericasBarometer surveys that showed an almost 10 percent decline in the support for democracy since 2004. It also provided a possible explanation for the rise in authoritarian strongmen ascending to power in some countries in the region.

Of the 22 countries surveyed, 18 of them said they believe their government leaders are involved in corruption. Peru ranked the highest among them, with 88 percent of Peruvian respondents believing so. Brazil and Colombia followed with almost 80 percent of Brazilian and Colombian respondents saying their officials are corrupt.

Only 20 percent of Canadian respondents believe their government officials are corrupt. Uruguay, the U.S. and Canada followed suit – with between 30 percent and 50 percent of participants claiming corruption on the part of their elected officials. On average, about three in five adults – almost 60 percent – view their elected representatives as untrustworthy.

This disenchantment toward elected officials also encompassed the electoral process itself. Only two in five adults – 40 percent – said they trust elections in their country. Less than 50 percent of participants in the countries surveyed believe votes are always counted correctly.

“These attitudes are correlated with declining support for democracy. The more cynical people are about the integrity of their elections and elected representatives, the less likely they are to support democracy. In many cases, such negative views of electoral politics are justified,” the survey pointed out.

Democracy out, authoritarianism in

The survey continued: “Most people in the Americas want their voices heard, but they don’t think most of their elected representatives are listening. Instead, they’re increasingly turning toward charismatic populists to channel their voices against experienced politicians they believe to be corrupt.”

The AmericasBarometer survey also found that many respondents over the years have expressed their support toward closing their countries’ respective legislatures. Participants said they backed this practice of self-coup, known as “autogolpe” in Spanish-speaking countries, in the span of 11 years. From about 14 percent of respondents supporting the closure of legislatures in 2010, this has risen to almost 30 percent in 2021.

The survey pointed two instances of strongmen in the executive branch infringing, if not dissolving, national legislatures. Back in October 2019, former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra dissolved the Congress of Peru. He accused the country’s congress of blocking his attempts to reform the government widely seen as corrupt by Peruvians.

A year later, the leader of El Salvador briefly occupied the country’s Legislative Assembly – backed by the military. In February 2020, Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele occupied the seat of the head of the legislature while guarded by soldiers in full battle gear. The president justified his move as necessary because lawmakers were delaying plans to approve a proposal to fight crime in the country.

“Modern democracies are supposed to translate the people’s voice into politics through elected representatives. But across the Americas, the public is losing faith in that system. A growing number of eligible voters prefer to see people whom they consider to be strong leaders run the government – even if that means skipping elections or overturning their results,” the survey concluded.

“Unless citizens everywhere regain confidence in the integrity of their elections and representative institutions, democracy across the Americas will remain endangered.”

Watch this video explaining the difference between representative democracy and direct democracy.

This video is from the Dandin channel on

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