Archive for October 19th, 2012

How The Venezuelan Presidential Vote Was Won

October 19, 2012

Steps to make sure an all powerful Government easily wins an election

Step 1: Create a Database with over 2.5 million people

The whole process begins with creating a direct aid program that will impact the largest number of people possible. It does not matter if your record in that area is dismal. Just over promise, there is no time for people to know whether you will deliver or not.

The name of the database: Mision Vivienda

It’s simple, massively publicize a program aimed at building homes for the Venezuelan poor. Each home has a multiplying effect, as the typical home in Venezuela has between four and five people living in it. Never mind that over 2.5 million people register for it and you have built less than 500,000 housing units in 14 years in Government. Just have people fill out the following form, with every detail about them that you can think of:

Yes, have them place even their Twitter handle, salary, job, detailed address, conditions of the home. This is 1984 on steroids, let Big Daddy know everything about you. Don’ bother with telling us if you are registered to vote, we will find out right here:

By going there, we will find out if you registered to vote and if you did not, we will go to your house and get you and take you to register. We not only get you to register, we also tell you at the same time that we know where you are. While we are there, we may even examine your house, just to make sure your data is true, or so we say. Close to a million homes of the more than 2.5 million people who registered were visited.

Step 2. On Election Day, in the afternoon, show up and ask: Have you voted?

Call it Operacion Remate, have a lot of cash ready, even military vehicles, tell people you will pay, you will take them. And make sure the person showing up, if possible, was the same person that took them to register in the Electoral registry or that went to inspect their house to “check” if they were “eligible” for the dream Mision Vivienda home.

Hope springs eternal. That is the main driver of the database.

And this works because of Abstention, with a capital “A”:

Recall my earlier plot:

(By the way, if you click twice on graphs you can see them in the original version)

Let me explain this graph again. The columns represent groups or strata of 2.5 million voters from the Parliamentary election from the most pro-opposition (on the left) strata to the most pro-Chavez one (on the right). In the first column on the left you can see the opposition obtained 80% of the vote, with 27% abstention and obtained 1.046 million more votes than Chavismo. As you can see, as you move to the right, Chavismo does better, even if abstention goes up. The increase in abstention is progressive until it drops from group 6 to group 7 from 39% to 36%. Thus, the more Chavista voting centers had much more abstention in 2010 (high 30%’s) than the extreme opposition (high 27%). That is a huge difference, given that 5% of the votes is close to one million votes.

This is what led me to model what would have happened in 2010 if abstention had been lower and asked myself: How much lower did it have to be in order to move the 2010 results to a tie? The answer scared me, it was only 4% in an election with 32% abstention. Most pollsters were saying abstention wold be 27-28%, thus I concluded that abstention would have to be below 25% for Capriles to lose, but except for one pollster that I don’t follow (who claimed abstention would be in the single digits), nobody was suggesting it could be that low and in any case in 2006 abstention was 25%, there was no reason to think it would or could be lower than that.

I did not count on the Mision Vivienda database or the Chavista plan to use it so extensively. Neither did the pollsters. To me, pollsters had to get three numbers right, the difference between the votes of the two candidates, the abstention and a good guess as to how their undecided would split. No pollster got more than the first number right and given that the second one was so important for the first one, as we will see, it is essentially meaningless that they got it right.

Because in the end, abstention was 19.3%, some 8 points lower than any pollster or analyst had predicted. That is all of 1.6 million votes! and as you can see in the chart above, that only favors Chavismo, as we are talking up to a 20% higher turnout in areas where Chavismo won handily in 2010, like 63%/37% in the “red”column in the above chart or 17% in the crimson column to the right, where Chavismo won by a 76% to 24% vote.

The Results

But it was even worse than that. Much worse. Turns out the  ¨undecided¨ were not really afraid to say that they were going to vote for Capriles, as most analysts (and pollsters!) interpreted, many of them were apparently worried about saying they were going to vote for Chavez, as the opposition did grow around them and they could feel it! Thus, it seems as if those large numbers of undecided went evenly or maybe even in larger fractions for Chavez than for Capriles.

Let’s first look at abstention levels in the seven groups of voters in 2006, 20010 and 2012:

The top curve was the regional election, where the opposition won. The one in the middle was the 2006 Presidential election and the green solid line at the bottom was this Presidential election. See the difference? IT IS HUGE! In 2010 we won, basically because Chavismo did not go and vote, while we did. Period. No other interpretation possible. This time around we showed up, but they outdid us in the increases in voters at all levels. Note also that abstention in groups six and seven on the right above are similar, evidence that there was less “phantom” voting that in the regional elections, as the opposition had witnesses in more than 90% of the voting places, as evidenced by the fact that it has the Actas from them and that the opposition did better in Chavista states.

The fact that the lower abstention hurt the opposition across the board can be seen in the following slide, which shows that the opposition lost ground in all seven layers of the first plot.

The second column shows the percentage of votes Capriles got in each of the seven strata of 2.5 million voters, the third Chavez and the last column shows how much the opposition lost ground, percentage-wise, in each of the seven segments of the population. Note that even in Strata 1, where the opposition won by almost 80% in the regional elections, our numbers actually went down by 3.3%. In fact, it was at the lowest levels, strata 7, where we lost the least ground, which may be related to having more witnesses coverage in those areas and fewer “phantom” voters.

Another way to look at how we lost ground between the two elections is to look at the growth of the votes in terms of percentages, for each strata for both sides, as shown in the next slide. This is simply the percentage growth in the number of votes for each layer and each side:

As you can see, that is how good the Chavista mobilization was, even in the most pro-opposition centers, they more than doubled our increase. In fact, we only matched their increase in the number of votes at the lowest level. (Where we still got whipped!) Think about it, even where we are a majority, Chavismo increased their votes more than us. Sad, but true.

You can see the evolution of the difference for each strata from 2006, to 2010 and then 2012:

As you can see, in the 2010 regional elections, we got more votes in strata #1,#2 and#3. However, this time around we only won in the first two strata, #1 and #2.

So, is there any good news?

Some. This is how the opposition has grown steadily since 2006:

This graph shows the votes in 2006 in blue and the growth over that in 2010 and now in 2012. As you can see growth since 2006 has been significant in traditional Chavista areas, even if more work needs to be done. The black line shows the percentage growth. Special note to Lara, where Falcon has delivered the state to the opposition and did a great job in the Presidential election.

Perhaps you can see it better in the following plot by looking at how Chavismo has grown (or not!) since 2006:

But for the time being, watch out, if Chavismo and Chávez manage to use the Misión Vivienda database in the December Gubernatorial election in full strength, it will be a tough road ahead for the opposition. My bet is they will focus in specific states and the opposition may end up doing better than expected come December. But I tend to be an optimist.

(data from Comando Venezuela)