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Honduras: Deciphering poll numbers

Do Hondurans support the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya or not? A recent poll has two sets of data that reveal a nuanced public view.

By Staff writer / July 14, 2009



Honduran society might be divided over whether they believe the ouster of their president, Manuel Zelaya, was right or wrong. But they are united in their belief that the international media is on his side.

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At protest marches in favor of his removal, signs implore: “CNN, Publish the Truth!”

At protests in favor of Mr. Zelaya, those who are typically suspicious of the foreign press corps have suddenly warmed up.

  But in the US, the media is being accused of being out of touch with Hondurans who support Zelaya.   

Why?

Last week, many news organizations cited a public opinion poll done by CID-Gallup, which was published by the  local Honduran newspaper, La Prensa . The poll showed 41 percent of Hondurans surveyed found Zelaya's ouster "justifiable."   

A blog post by Robert Naiman, national coordinator of Just Foreign Policy, calls on the Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Reuters to correct this information. And he provides links for readers to send corrections directly to the offending news organizations.

Did we get it wrong?

Yes, and no. We inadvertently got only half of the survey, according to the only blogger (bloggingsbyboz.com) who seems to have figured out what happened.

Apparently, CID-Gallup asked two related questions in the poll.

( A call to the president of CID-Gallup to get the raw data has not yet been returned to confirm this. Their website does not have the poll results.)   

The first question: Was  President Zelaya  removal justified? Forty-one percent of those surveyed said that  the removal was justified, while 28 percent disagreed. Thirty-one percent did not know or did not answer.

La Prensa published only this first question and these figures. So did The Christian Science Monitor and various other outlets.

The second question in the poll was:  Did those surveyed agree with the actions to remove him? This time, 46 percent said they disagreed, and 41 percent agreed. Some news organizations, such as the New York Times, published these figures.   

Publishing misleading numbers on purpose?

How could the polling numbers be so contradictory? Do people in Honduras support the ouster or not?

News outlets, including ours, were accused of publishing inaccurate figures or even falsifying numbers for ideological gain. I can assure readers that that is not the case ... at least for the Monitor.

In retrospect, I wish I had seen both questions and both results, because they would have supported what I was hearing from Hondurans.

  So, do Hondurans support the ouster or not?

A closer look at both survey questions and the answers makes more sense. Together they offer a more nuanced understanding of the Honduran perspective – and reinforces what I found during my reporting in Honduras.

I met with a group of young people who said that they believed that Zelaya needed to be ousted. But they were either undecided about or adamantly opposed to how he was removed. They were particularly upset by the fact that he was exiled.

In other words, these young Hondurans probably would have fallen into both the 41 percent who believe his removal was justifiable and the 46 percent of those who disagree with the actions to remove him.

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