The Asia Foundation Launches 2nd Public Perception Poll Results

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Dili, February 24, 2014 — On February 20 in Timor-Leste, The Asia Foundation launched the results of its second Public Opinion Poll. The nationwide poll was conducted in September-October 2013 in partnership with NGO Belun, interviewing 831 adults across all 13 districts. The poll is the second in a series of opinion polls and part of a larger program aimed at understanding public policy processes and capabilities in Timor-Leste. The goal of the program is to identify the priorities and concerns of the broader population, with the view of how that relates to public policy in Timor-Leste. The second poll in particular aims to see if perceptions of issues have changed since the first survey.

Using internationally-recognized survey methods that ensure respondents are chosen at random – and not according to their status or seniority – the survey presents a picture of the opinions of the average Timorese adult on a set of important questions relating to the direction of the country; government performance; local economic situations; national, local and household priorities; future expectations; as well as additional questions to ascertain the views on decentralization and its likely impacts to the broader society in the future. The results of the second poll confirm findings from the previous version, which is that, in general, people’s perceptions toward the government and the general trajectory in the country, remain overwhelmingly positive.

Asked to rate the performance of the government, 77% percent of respondents said the government is doing a good job (of which 19% said “very good” and 58% said “somewhat good”). By contrast, 20% of respondents believe the government is doing a bad job (14% who said “somewhat bad” and 6% who said “very bad”), with negative sentiment towards the government’s performance increasing 6% since March 2013 (from 10% “somewhat bad,” and 4% “very bad” in March 2013).

Asked whether the country was going in the right or wrong direction, there was no significant shift in public sentiment in the past 6 months, with almost half of all respondents (47%) believing the country is going in the right direction. Only 5% believe it to be going in the wrong direction.

In line with findings from the March 2013 survey a consistent theme remains that the Timorese people attach a very high priority to improving roads. Respondents were asked to identify the service which was in most need of improvement in their local area: roads, access to water, education, health or agriculture. Forty-two percent nominated roads and 36 percent water (up 9% from March 2013), while health, education and agriculture each scored less than 10 percent.

While 58 percent of respondents said the economic situation of their household had improved over the past two years (with most of those interviewees saying it was “a little better,” rather than “much better”), there were still 40 percent who said their situation had deteriorated. Notably, most Timorese are confident in the future, with 56 percent saying they expect their household economic situation to improve (either “much better” or “a little better”) over the next year.

In the September 2013 iteration of the survey, a series of questions were asked on decentralization, as part of a thematic ‘Issue in Focus.’ Fifty-one percent of respondents interviewed said they understand “some” or “a lot” of the government’s plans for decentralization, while 37% of respondents claim to understand little of the process (understanding either “a little” or “not at all”). Compared with people living in rural areas, people living in urban areas were more likely to say they understand decentralization (60% claiming they understand “some” or “a lot”) compared to rural respondents (47% understand “some” or “a lot”).

Despite an almost equal divide existing between respondents that believe they have been well-consulted by the government about decentralization (44%) and those that claim they have not (45%), the majority of Timorese remain overwhelmingly optimistic that decentralization will result in improved service delivery. Asked to consider how the delivery of government services might be impacted by decentralization, 72 percent indicate it to be “a bit better” or “much better,” while only 3% believe that service delivery will become worse.

While the overall survey outcomes show that the level of confidence that people have for the government and the country’s future direction remain more or less the same, some of the findings stress the need for policy-makers to consider the views on priorities in policy-making and budgetary processes. During the media release of the poll, the Foundation’s Country Representative, Susan Marx, reiterated this sentiment stating that “the poll indicate that with the exception of roads, many of the government’s other priorities and budget allocation does not reflect the most pressing needs of the people, for example in the case of the allocation to water and sanitation.”

The Foundation intends to conduct a similar poll twice a year to draw comparisons of the Timorese public’s perceptions and opinions over time. Download the latest poll here.

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