Rangoon, Burma – A national public opinion poll (PDF) released today by IRI, the Institute’s first in the country, shows that Burmese citizens overwhelmingly see democracy as the most desirable form of government, but are also supportive of the country’s general direction.
Strong Support for Democracy
In the wake of the country’s transition to a civilian government following decades of military rule, citizens strongly support a more democratic Burma. Seventy-six percent of all respondents agreed with the statement “democracy may have its problems but is better than any other form of government.” Large numbers rejected suggestions that democracies are indecisive (49 percent), not good for the economy (69 percent) or ineffective at maintaining law and order (65 percent). Eighty-nine percent of respondents say if parliamentary elections were held today they would definitely vote.
Not surprisingly, Burmese approved of the country’s recent political reforms. Sixty-two percent of respondents said democratization has increased over the last year and the same number said women’s rights have improved as well.
Economic Considerations Driving Optimism
After years of economic stagnation and international isolation, Burmese citizens are positive about the country’s trajectory with 88 percent of respondents saying Burma is heading in the right direction. Furthermore, 85 percent of respondents believe the current economic situation in Burma is good or very good. Compared to one year ago, 85 percent claim their personal economic situation has stayed the same or improved, and 81 percent expect their personal economic situation will stay the same or improve in the next year.
Despite overall positive views of the economy, respondents listed unemployment (19 percent), ethnic or sectarian violence (16 percent) and high prices (nine percent) as the three biggest problems still facing Burma as a whole, and specific issues related to the economy such as low income and farm subsidies are serious concerns.
The poll, conducted from December 24, 2013 - February 1, 2014, is a comprehensive analysis of attitudes regarding the Burmese economic, social and political landscape. The randomly selected sample consists of 3,000 adult men and women from 208 rural and 92 urban locations in all 14 provinces of Burma. The study was designed and analyzed by Rob Varsalone of Global Strategic Partners. The survey was fielded by the Myanmar Survey Research group under the supervision of IRI. At the midrange the survey has a confidence interval of plus or minus two percent with a confidence level of 95 percent. The response rate was 79 percent.
This poll was funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
Since 1992, IRI and its partners have supported political leaders, parties, activists and civic groups who are dedicated to nonviolent reform towards freedom and democracy in Burma.