PNUD Chile

UNDP study analyzes decade before social outbreak:

Chileans are no longer spectators: they participate actively, but identify politically less.

Between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of people who participated in at least one political action increased from 24 to 52%.

• Democracy remains the form of government preferred by the majority of the population (52%). However, the negative assesment of the functioning of institutions such as Congress, parties and courts of justice has increased.

• In a context of great social changes, mayor socioeconomic inequalities persist both, in the assesment of democracy and people’s political involvement.


Santiago, January 2020.


Last January 2020, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented the report “Ten Years of Audit of Democracy: Before the Outbreak”. Based on the results of five national public opinion polls conducted between 2008 and 2018, this publication provides a comprehensive diagnosis on the evolution of citizen’s perceptions on several key issues for democratic governance and sustainable development.

For Claudia Mojica, UNDP Resident Representative in Chile, “this report assesses the quality of democracy from the perspective of citizenship and gives continuity to a historical commitment of UNDP to contribute to the analysis of the social, cultural, political and institutional conditions that make the democratic regime viable and sustainable. We believe that, in the context of the mobilizations that began October 18th, this may be an important input for the discussion in which Chilean authorities and society are currently involved.”


By 2018, 52% of citizens legitimized democracy as the best form of government, compared to 45% in 2008. However, there are great socioeconomic differences in this assessment: in 2018 only 43% of those who had incomplete secondary education or less preferred a democratic regime, while the measure reached 69% among those who had a university degree. These socioeconomic differences persist  when it comes to the assesment of how well or badly democracy works.

Additionally, almost a fifth of the population considered in 2018 that, in some circumstances, an authoritarian government might be preferable to a democratic one, a figure that has remained stable over time and is one of the highest in Latin America.

During the decade, the group of skeptical democrats increased from 25% to 43%: people who legitimize the democratic system, but do not trust its key institutions (political parties, Congress, government, courts of justice). The decline in the confidence levels has been rapid and reaches all the observed institutions. Except for the firefighters, in 2018 none of them held the confidence of over a third of the population.

During the period, citizens experienced a rapid and cross cutting cultural change: the acceptance of traditional gender roles substantially diminished while the aproval of abortion and same-sex marriage increased. At the same time, chileans are more acceptant of the presence of migrants in the country. However, the data show some signs of an increasing polarization of values across generations, political orientations, religions and educational levels.

The report states that during the decade that preceeded the social outbreak, political involvement changed. Participation in different forms of political action (beyond electoral participation) as well as the support they triggered, significantly increased. This is true even for actions of a disruptive nature, such as streets blockages (from 8% to 29% approval) and land seizures (from 7% to 23%).

This occurs in a context of low and decreasing levels of affiliation to social organizations. Simultaneously, new ideals of citizenship and new collective causes such as caring for the environment or animals, to the detriment of others such as always obeying the law or serving in the Armed Forces, get consolidated.

The study also highlights the fact that the percentages of those who do not identify or sympathize with political parties or the left-right axis significantly increased from 53% to 74% and from 34% to 55% respectively.

Using identification and participation data, the report classifies people into four groups according to their political involvement:


• Unaffected: those who do not identify with parties or with the left-right axis and who have not participated in any political action. The size of this group remains stable throughout the period accounting for c.a. 32%.


• Fragmented: those who have carried out at least one political action, but who are not politically identified. This is the group that increased the most in the decade, from 5% to 27%.


• Spectators: those who have not participated in any political action, but who do identify with positions or parties. This group decreased significantly between 2008 and 2018, from 43% to 15%. It is the smallest group in 2018.


• Involved: those who have taken some political action and identify themselves politically. This group has increased over the period, from 20% to 26%.


This report is available here (in Spanish).



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