I went to Venezuela about two weeks ago and spent it meeting with a number of people. While I knew and know that it is an uphill battle to defeat Chavez, I must say what I heard and saw changed my mind quite drastically about the probability of change come October. In particular, I heard or saw at least two presentations of polls, which have different results, but from which I could reach my own conclusions.
Beyond that, the way the Government acts clearly shows that there is little confidence within the Government as to the possible outcome of the election. The recent CNE decisions against ONG’s and their campaigns and the massive use of state resources are but one example of this.
And to those that have not noticed, there was a union election in Ferrominera del Orinoco, the iron ore company owned by the Government, where the President of the union was reelected under the “Unity” banner by close to a 5%. And yes, while he was reelected, the path to the election was full of roadblocks and dirty tricks, the main one being hiring about 2,400 new workers to try to win it for the Government, as well as a one year delay to try to insure the PSUV slate would win.
But it was not to be. The same workers hired to load the election in PSUV’s favor, apparently decided they were not too happy somehow and the election went to the Unity candidate in what used to be Chavista territory and more importantly we are talking about a union election. Think about it, the rank and file of a union election held under the rule of the XXIst. Century Chavista Bolivarian revolution, was won by the opposition!
Going back to the poll numbers, I saw a presentation by a well known pollster, my favorite for too many reasons. Since I did not pay for it, I will not say the name, but it is in my mind the most accurate in recent years.
These are the highlights:
-To get it over with, because it is not the most important result, things were very close at the end of June. Within the error. That is the punch line.
-While crime is THE most important problem to a majority of voters, when deciding who to vote for, voters work with their pockets. It is inflation and their purchasing power which is most important when it comes to the decision of who to vote for.
-Confidence in Chavez is 9% better than confidence in Capriles. However, this numbers ahs not changed in six months. In 2006, confience in Chavez was 26% more than confidence on Manuel Rosales.
-51% of those polled like Chavez, 49% like Capriles. This is in response to “Is XX someone you like?”that is, not someone you would vote for. In 2006, the difference was 55% for Chavez, 40% for Rosales.
-Social and economic indicators are all even between the two candidates, however, Chavez’ have gone down or flat since December, Capriles’ have increased. They did go up the last three months of last year, but no more. In 2006, Chavez had at least a 15% advantage over opposition candidate Rosales.
-The fear that Capriles will cancel “Misiones” has gone from 60% last year to 42% at the end of June, which means Capriles’ message is getting through.
-50% of those registered in Mision Vivienda, expect a home before October. That is fully 25% of the population.
-85% of Chavista voters believe that Chavez is cured by now.
-The ratio of “Optimists” over “Pessimists” has remained flat to down since December.
The pollster discussed the variety of results between pollsters. He noted that the pro-Chavez votes is quite similar between “serious” pollsters. What is different is the number of undecided, which varies from 8% to as high as 23%. He suggested that it was the undecided that are leaning largely in favor of Capriles, which creates the differences.
The last argument is the only one that I fully did not buy. It is rare in polling to have the undecided split in such an asymmetrical way. Maybe the pollster wanted to be nice to his competitors, I just think that the other pollster are not asking the right questions. The pollster concluded by saying that Capriles’ trend was what you would like to see in an race: One candidate stuck, the other one rising, the structural race dramatically different from previous ones. Concluding, he said that a half million difference between Capriles and Chavez seemed to be quite reasonable at this time and with this data.
The other puzzle in all this, is the inconsistent policies of the Government: Why insist on the gasoline chip? Why the slowdown in Cadivi outflows? The first created fear, the second one could create shortages at the wrong time. The answer may be that not everyone in the Government is being realistic about the outcome.
So, I turn to my next worry: Will they concede? Looks tough at this time to answer this. These guys are no democrats. But I will give my thoughts on this in a post in the future.
In the meantime: There is a path, there is a way in Venezuela!