Archive for September 24th, 2012

My First (Non) Prediction On The Venezuelan Presidential Election

September 24, 2012

I just spent a week in Caracas. I talked to anyone that claims to have a relevant number on the elections. Well, not everyone, I did not ask Jesse to meet with me, I am not sure he even goes out and runs polls. I heard all sorts of anecdotes, including one that went something like this: “In my maid’s family, all but the maid (Funny, how it is always that way!)  voted for Chavez in 2006, there are seven of them and four will vote for Capriles this time around, add my maid, that is five out of seven, Capriles will win.

I did see a few pollsters, not Consultores 21, they were in New York, giving their old numbers that say Capriles is ahead by 2%, but the margin of error is 2.3%. I heard part of a Datanalisis talk, but their numbers where superseded by new ones today. These say that Chavez has a ten point advantage over Capriles 47% to 37%, with 15.5% undecided.Funny how Chavez has not moved from 46-47% all summer.

However, I can’t quite comprehend these Datanalisis results when I see this private poll by the same pollster in Miranda State, in which Capriles wins by 16%. Given that Chavez won in 2006 versus Rosales by 13%, then this represents a shift of 29% in the electorate since 2006, in a state that is as heterogeneous as you can get (rural, urban, better off and poor, but in Class D, Capriles is ahead) and which represents 10% of the country’s population. Moreover, this State is contiguous with some of the most populous states that will be key to the election in October. It is difficult to envision that there has not been at least some shift in these states and that the 10% Datanalisis advantage to Chavez seems, at least to me, to be rather inconsistent.

It is also true that in the most rural states, which have smaller populations, Chavez won by as much as 40% in 2006, which implies that some of the differences can be compensated, but 10% still seems to large. To say nothing of the undecided in a country as polarized as Venezuela is today. The latter can be explained by the fact that Datanalisis asks a very open question, which includes, “Chavez”, “Capriles”,  “other”, “none” and even “don´t know” in the question. Or so I was told…

I also heard all sorts of anecdotes, such as “My neighbor, who works at the Ministry, says Capriles is ahead by 1%” or “My friend who is an expert on Chavismo, is leaving the country”. And so on…

But after this flooding of my mind with information, here is my conclusion, after processing my data with my slide rule, which you are likely to like as much as my friends who called me to tell me I was crazy to think that (They are my friends!):

The race, last week, based mostly on polls carried out before the infrastructure accidents in Cupira, Amuay and El Palito is too close to call based on the pollsters that I follow and numbers that I saw. Even in the best of cases, Capriles is ahead by a value which is within the margin of error.

There, get mad at me for not being more positive.

Are you over it? Then here is the caveats:

-Momentum is clearly in Capriles’ favor: His rallies have grown, people want to see him, touch him and he is now more accepted than he was two or three months ago. He creates “Fervor”

-Chavez’s campaign is fairly incoherent, he shows up every other day and his time campaigning is less and less every day.

-The opposition voter is much more motivated at this time. This has always been the case, but it may be magnified on October 7th. As a pro-Chavez analyst told me, “pro-Chavez voters may not vote for Capriles, but they are more than likely to stay home, rather than go and vote. Chavez campaign is very disorganized, which explains the failed rallies”

-Anti-fraud measures seem to be in place, with three opposition witnesses scheduled to be at almost all polling stations, the biggest obstacle being intimidation. (Witnesses have already been told in no uncertain terms not to show up again in some stations)

-Abstention is key. Most pollsters predict 26-27% abstention, less than that (25%), it favors Chavez, more than that (30%) Capriles wins.

But I am a numbers guy. From everything that I saw, heard and absorbed, this race is too close to call, it is 50/50, even, dead heat, too close to call. My heart wants to say 51%. I just can’t…yet.

Just don’t hate me, this is the way I see it and I would love to change my mind before the election.

Will certainly keep you posted, that’s what the Devil does, post, post, post.