The figure represents a sharp reversal in public opinion compared to what the same institution, which measures social, political and economic trends in 20 African countries, found out in January last year. Then, its findings were that 64 per cent of Ugandans were confident Uganda was moving in the right direction.

Wilsken Agencies Ltd and the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDG) in Uganda partnered with Afrobarometer, which describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan research project, to conduct the Round 5 Survey between December 2011 and February 2012.

A statement issued yesterday said “much of this dissatisfaction probably stems from the effects of a high annual inflation rate of 26 per cent in January 2012.”

High cost of living
At least 90 per cent of the 2,400 people who participated in the research agreed that the cost of living and food has drastically risen in the last six months, noting that the government was doing “far too little” to address the current increase in the cost of living and food.

Opinion that living conditions were “much worse” than they were 12 months ago was most pronounced in the more populous central region where more than 60 per cent also believe that things will deteriorate further in the months ahead.

In the north, east and west, however, on average, slightly less than that percentage answered the questions on whether things are worse and will get even worse in the next twelve months, in the affirmative.

Almost three in 10 people blamed “excessive spending during the 2011 elections and poor management of the economy by the government” for the overwhelming despondency in the country that has been made worse by “rising fuel prices, the global economic situation and the fall of the shilling against the dollar”, the statement said.

As such, respondents in all the four regions of the country overwhelmingly think the country is heading in the wrong direction. It was found that at least eight in 10 people in Central Uganda support this view, with only eight per cent saying the country was on the correct path.

Northern optimism
Northern Uganda respondents painted the most optimistic impression of all the regions. Sixty per cent of people interviewed in the region that has only recently returned to normalcy following two decades of civil strife which had seen villages emptied and the rural populace forced into overcrowded and disease-ridden camps, said the country is heading in the wrong direction. About 34 per cent said all was well.

In the west, seven out of 10 Ugandans share the same opinion held by 74 per cent of those interviewed in eastern Uganda that the country is heading for disaster. Both regions also had just two out of every 10 people interviewed saying things are looking up.

Welfare in shambles
In the city where inflationary pressures and post-election unrest remain most visible, 85 per cent feel political, social and economic welfare was in a shambles.

At 82 per cent, those interviewed in Uganda’s major urban areas agreed with the general opinion of city dwellers. Backing the change in public opinion is the turn-around in rural Uganda that has ordinarily returned a more supportive opinion of the government. On average, seven out of 10 people agreed with Kampala.

There is a significantly reduced difference of opinion between respondents who identified themselves as opposition supporters and sympathisers of the ruling party.

Eighty-five per cent opposition supporters compared to 65 per cent in the NRM party agree Uganda is heading south. A similar tendency is noticeable between female who have in the past generally supported the regime and male respondents.

Seventy-six per cent of all males interviewed and 70 per cent of females agreed that Uganda is heading the wrong way.

Public opinion of the government’s handling of economic affairs is poor with 75 per cent rating the economy as doing “fairly or very badly”. Almost seven of every 10 Ugandans felt the economy is worse than it was 12 months ago.

In December 2010, the Afrobarometer survey revealed that only 38 per cent believed the economy was performing poorly, and only 31 per cent thought the country’s economic situation was getting worse.

Living conditions
On how Ugandans rated the current living conditions, 33 per cent thought the current living conditions were “much worse” than they were in January 2011, while another 33 per cent thought the conditions were “worse”.

Less than two of every 10 people said the conditions were still the same, with an equal 16 per cent saying their conditions were much better than in January 2011.

Only two per cent said their conditions were much better now than they were before January 2011.

By JOHN NJOROGE, Daily Monitor

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