Carabineros guard the La Moneda Palace in Chile in 1973, the year the coup d'état occurred.Horacio Villalobos (Corbis via Getty Images)
On the eve of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d'état led by former Army General Augusto Pinochet on September 11, 1973 together with the Armed Forces, and which led Chile to a dictatorship for 17 years by which there are still 1,469 victims of forced disappearance, the CERC-MORI survey investigates the opinion of Chileans about the coup and its significance; the dictatorship that came after and the figure, legacy and responsibility of Pinochet.
It is a survey that will be presented this May 30 by political scientist Claudia Heiss, former senator Carlos Ominani (exPS) and writer Patricio Fernández who has followed the issue since 1987 and who this year has focused on public opinion in the Pinochet era, 1973-2023. Consulting a sample of 1,000 Chileans of different generations – those who lived and not the authoritarian regime – this version is entitled Chile bajo al sombra de Pinochet. Accordingto the study, 50 years after the coup, this shadow "rises like a ghost that seems to have no peace."
"Political events at every moment of time produce changes in the way we look at the past. That is the first conclusion of these data. There is no permanent, categorical judgment, but rather changing, dependent on the present. What we have experienced in recent years has substantially impacted our vision of the past and these data account for it, "says the study to introduce in the delivery of its data. Among them, that in 2023 there is 36% of Chileans believe that the military "were right" in carrying out the coup d'état, while 41% said that "they are never right", that is, there are only five points of difference between one opinion and another. 19%, meanwhile, did not answer.
A reflection of that shifting opinion is seen in the question about the justification of the coup, which has been asked over the past 20 years by the same poll. In 2003, 46 per cent said there is "never any reason to strike", a figure that rose to 65 per cent in 2006; down to 54% in 2009; It rose to 68% in 2013, in the commemoration of 30 years, and fell by 17 percentage points in 2023. "The final verdict is unclear whether there is never a reason, or they were right," the study says.
However, the alternative "they were right to carry out the coup d'état" did have an evolution, and upwards. In 2003, 36 per cent answered in the affirmative; in 2013 it dropped to 16%. But, in 2023, the increase was 20 percentage points.
"Chile has a total of 15 million voters and these data show that a third of the population views the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet positively," is one of the conclusions of the survey, led by economist Marta Lagos, founder of Latinobarómetro.
A soft trial of Pinochet
The survey also asked about the opinion of the Pinochet regime and, by 2023, 47% responded that it was "partly good, partly bad"; 25% were "only bad" and 11% were "only good". In the breakdown of the study, "soft opinion" – as Lagos calls it – towards the regime is very high, with 40%, among young people under 35, while among those who lived through the period, it reaches 51%. That is, 11 percentage points more.
On who was responsible for the coup d'état, in an open question, 22% answered that Pinochet, 13% that was the ousted socialist president Salvador Allende (1970-1973); 4% pointed to the United States and 35% did not know or did not answer. There are other answers, but with small percentages that are diluted, which leads the study to conclude that "most of the country's population is not clear who or who has the main responsibility." "It should be noted that the military does not leave in response. Many times the most interesting thing is what does not appear."
Regarding whether or not the coup d'état is relevant to Chile today, 58% answered yes; 26% who did not. 16% did not answer. "The younger generation under 35 years old that did not live through the dictatorship has no significant difference with the generation over 53 years old in declaring the relevance of the coup and the dictatorship for Chile today. Indeed, the three generations of socialization give the same relevance 57% over 53 years, 61% between 36-52 years and 59% under 35 years, "says the survey.
The image of Pinochet as a ruler was also measured and how he will go down in history was consulted. In 2003 and 2013, 18% said they saw him as a dictator, while in 2023, that opinion was 64%. However, in 20 years the perception that he was "the man who promoted and modernized the Chilean economy" also rose positively, since in 2023 it was indicated by 39%, while in 2003 it was 27% and in 2013, 34%.
In addition, in 2023 there are still 20% of respondents who said that Pinochet was "one of the best rulers that Chile has had in the 2013th century." In 55 that opinion, however, was higher, at 2003% and in 25 at <>%.