Energy Reform and Mexican Public Opinion

Mike Shannon   , James S. Taylor    Windmill Thumb

[Para español, presione aquí.]

Polling Memo
To:                  Interested Parties
From:             James Taylor, Mike Shannon           
Date:              September 18, 2013
Re:                 Energy Reform and Mexican Public Opinion


Vianovo recently designed and commissioned a national poll in Mexico to assess the political landscape and gauge views about new energy reforms proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.  Since the reforms were announced last month, this is the first survey to directly measure support of the president’s energy plan.
The poll was conducted by telephone from September 7 to 9, 2013 and included 1000 interviews of Mexican adults (18+).  The margin of error is ±3.1%.  Field work was performed by Buendía & Laredo, a leading market research firm based in Mexico City.


President Peña Nieto and his PRI party enjoy strong overall support despite discontent with the direction of the country.

  • Nine months into his term, the president enjoys a job approval rating of 51%, and 54% have a positive view of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
  • The other major parties receive lower marks – 45% have a positive view of Partido Acción National (PAN), the party of the previous two presidents. And just 38% have a positive view of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), the party of the left.
  • 62% of Mexicans believe the country is currently headed in the wrong direction. 

Mexicans currently view education as the reform priority, with energy as the next most important.

  • Given a list of five reforms, 55% rate education reform as the top priority at the moment, while 22% see energy reform as most important.  Three other key reforms – electoral, fiscal and telecommunications – register at less than 10%.
  • Education’s primacy is likely a function of timing – the issue has been hotly debated during the past 30 days, with protests of the reforms clogging Mexico City traffic and generating widespread media attention.  As the debate shifts to energy reform, we anticipate these numbers to shift dramatically.

The energy reform debate is in its early stages, with many unaware of the president’s recently announced proposals.

  • Just 51% have seen, read or heard anything about the president’s proposed energy reforms during the past few weeks.
  • Among those who have seen, read or heard anything, 41% say it has made them more favorable toward the president’s energy reforms, 36% less favorable, and 22% say it has made no difference.

A majority of Mexicans instinctively support the president’s energy reforms.

  • Based on what they know, 53% of Mexicans currently favor the president’s proposed energy reforms, 38% oppose them and 12% have no opinion.
  • Given the lack of knowledge about the reforms, this strong starting point is likely a reflection of the political strength of the president and his party and driven by a general recognition that changes are needed to turn the country around.

However, some of the specific details of the plan are instinctively opposed by a majority, and this opposition is likely a reaction to fears of privatization.

  • After hearing five specific proposals from the president’s energy reform plan, Mexicans express majority support for just two – allowing national oil company Pemex to retain more of its income for investment (63%) and giving Pemex more operational independence from the government, while maintaining it as a state company (56%).
  • Three other proposals – all involving allowing private companies to partner or compete with Pemex and state electricity company CFE – face instinctive opposition. One of the central elements of energy reform – permitting the government to enter into profit-sharing contracts with private companies to explore for and produce oil and gas – is favored by only 33% of Mexicans.
  • These lower marks are likely driven by fears of privatization of Pemex, which garners a 63% positive rating among Mexicans.  Of note, this affinity for Pemex is somewhat conflicted – asked to describe the state company in a single word, “corruption” and “high prices” lead top-of-mind associations. 

As the debate begins in earnest, several pro-reform arguments resonate with the public and dramatically lift support of the president’s overall plan.

  • After hearing nine arguments in support of energy reform, voter approval for the president’s energy plan jumps by 14 points to 67%.
  • The most compelling arguments revolve around the economic benefits of reform – more jobs and lower consumer energy prices. 
  • Another persuasive set of messages focuses on Pemex and competition – stressing that it will not be privatized…but that the nation, not the government, owns the oil and natural gas, and that private participation is needed to break the union-backed Pemex monopoly and grow oil revenues for the benefit of the Mexican people.
  • This one-two punch of (i) economic benefits and (ii) carefully reframing the conversation around Pemex is possible winning combination as the public debate unfolds during the next sixty days. 

Topline results in English  (link)
Topline results in Spanish (link)


The survey was wholly funded by Vianovo and was not performed on behalf of the Mexican government nor any client interest.