Just 32 percent of Cambodians believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 81 percent a decade ago, according to a report released on Wednesday by the U.S.-based Asia Foundation.
The report is based on a survey of 1,000 people carried out between May 19 and June 9—before the July 22 resolution to the post-election crisis—living in every province bar Kep. The survey is the first conducted by the development NGO since 2003, shortly before that year’s election turmoil.
Along with the 32 percent of respondents who said they believe Cambodia is headed in the right direction, 59 percent said they feel the country is headed in the wrong direction—up from nine percent in 2003—while 10 percent said they were unsure.
“While uncertainty over the direction the country was headed prior to the political settlement is likely to have influenced public opinion, it is important to bear in mind the results of the 2013 national assembly elections marked the biggest shift in voter support away from the ruling party in two decades,” the report says.
“At least part of the reason for the dramatic shift…can be attributed to the rising expectations of a society in a rapid economic transition. In other words, as citizens and consumers, Cambodians are increasingly demanding better performance in both government and private sector service delivery.”
Of the 59 percent of people who said they believe Cambodia is headed in the wrong direction, 19 percent cited corruption as the reason for their response, 15 percent cited deforestation and 12 percent cited issues related to poverty.
The 32 percent who said Cambodia is headed in the right direction named improving infrastructure, economic growth and peace as the main reasons for their response.
Among all respondents, “corruption,” identified by 29 percent of people, was named as the most significant problem facing Cambodia, followed by “poverty,” identified by 17 percent.
On the subject of government, 49 percent of people said decision-making at the commune level “affects their life more,” compared to just 27 percent who said national-level decisions have a greater impact on their life and 22 percent who said the two have an equal effect.
“One possible explanation…is that citizens lack awareness of the national government’s decisions, and so do not understand how those decisions affect their lives,” the report notes.
“Also, citizens live in close proximity to local government, which may contribute to an unrealistic perception of where decision-making actually occurs on critical issues that affect them.”
The Asia Foundation survey also polled people on news consumption, and found that 54 percent “normally” get their information from TV, 27 percent from radio, 10 percent from family and 9 percent from computers and smartphones.
Zero percent of respondents cited newspapers as their normal source of news. Six percent cited newspapers as a secondary source.