Poll Numbers Have Changed Fast In Venezuela, But It May Not Be Enough

April 12, 2013


So, I have been in Caracas for less than 48 hours to cast what is likely to be one of the most expensive votes (my airfare was outrageous!)  on Sunday’s elections and even pollsters that I don’t trust too much, because of their pro-Chávez stance, are trying to change my mind with their ever decreasing gap between Maduro (Who is still ahead in these polls) and Capriles.

I don’t want to throw too many new numbers at you, but two pro-Chavez pollsters and one considered to be more neutral have seen the gap narrow from almost 20 points, during Chávez’ mourning period, to single digits a week ago (all three), based on polls before Easter, to 7.2% in Datanalisis poll today, with more recent data.

And while I have never been a big Datanalisis fan, it is precisely because of that, that the numbers  are interesting. You see, Datanalisis never seems to get the abstention right and in elections where that has yielded an unexpected result, they have been wrong. Thus, when they say that abstention will be in the 20% range and the fast changing difference is now only 7.2%, I have to wonder: What if?

Because I just can not possibly believe that abstention will be that low. Chávez was loved, adored and admired, this is Maduro we are talking about now. Maduro ain’t Chávez. Even Chávez saw abstention levels of 25% in the 2006 Presidential election, where he whipped Manuel Rosales. I find it hard to believe that Maduro, will be able to match that, even with Chávez’ endorsement.

And if abstention gets into the 30% range, that 7% gap gets down to where it may be almost impossible to predict what may happen, even if I still think Maduro is likely to have the edge. But not a huge edge, maybe 3 to 5% at most.

So, what seemed improbable a month ago still seems difficult, but not impossible. Last December regional elections saw 50%abstention, but largely because the opposition did not go out and vote and somehow Capriles has managed to get people excited again.

But given that Maduro’s campaign, while improving, has been less than inspired, one simply has to wonder whether people will go out and vote for the man Chávez anointed, just because he did it.

I am a numbers guy and the numbers suggest Maduro will win by a smaller margin that polls say, but looking at just the overall numbers (which also say Capriles is more popular than Maduro, for example) without knowing exactly what people feel about the Son Of Chávez, it is very hard to predict that the outcome will be different than polls predict.

In fact, abstention has been key in promoting and demoting pollsters in Venezuela as the “best”, to the point that not one can claim to have predicted each and every election and referendum result since 2006. Every single time, one of them has miscalculated and the number that did them in, was precisely misjudging the abstention level.

Give me 20% abstention, Maduro wins easily. Give me 30%, things get interesting and unpredictable, but cheating and tricks still make it hard, give me 35% and we are into Black Swan territory.

I think it will be closer to 30%, making it close, but with Maduro holding the edge. If less, game over.


35 Responses to “Poll Numbers Have Changed Fast In Venezuela, But It May Not Be Enough”

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  2. Haude Menasche Says:

    Ahhh there it is finally, IN SEARCH OF BLACK SWAN!!!


    Haude Roizental

  3. Ramon Says:

    No lines in New Orleans…

  4. Mick Says:

    Everybody is talking about Chavistas cheating. How can they possibly cheat more than St Hugo did? He was the master of dirty politics, and had far more control than Maduro.

  5. At this hour (10AM, CCS Time) really thin. I live right beside an elementary school and just across a high school, both are voting centers, and neither have had lines so far; people are able to go in, get straight to the ID station, and then to the voting station, vote, and get out, in as much as 5 minutes (if as much).

  6. Bruni Says:

    We are waiting for your input on the votation process, Miguel.
    How are the lines?

  7. kernel_panic Says:

    Miguel, I posted this comment over daniel’s blog, however,I wish to share it here, also, because I consider that it has interesting math regarding the chavista voting universe, and would like comments on it.

    I was looking at previous election results, trying to see if there was a “baseline” number for each camp, and trends among the years, and stuff… Ill explain that later, so first, here are the numbers. Please note that those are approx numbers:


    From the above table, excluding the elections in which chavez was on the ballot (2009 and 2012pre), the baseline would be around 6 million votes, actually, if you compare 2010 vs 2012 regionals, let’s say that the simpathy vote was included, it was basically 2010 all over again. Those elections were not crucial to chavismo, because El Supremo, and more importantly, his way to run things (which is what el pueblo is actually voting) were not at stake. From all these, we can conclude that the hard-core chavista vote is actually LESS than 5.5 million votes.

    On 2009 chavez was directly at stake, because if he lost the referendum, he wouldnt have been able to get reelected on 2012, so El Pueblo had to vote in order to save the Beloved Leader, there was motivation from them to do so. Let’s say that for 2012, the best scenario for chavez, assuming a constant total number of voters, would be 6,3 million. What’s interesting is that by 2012, and compared to the previous election in 2010, the REP (total number of voters) grew by 2 million, the oppo vote grew by one million, and the chavista vote grew 2 million considering the 6,3 million number. This points several issues:
    a) part of the extra oppo 1M came from previous abstention: if you never voted for chavez, why would you suddenly go vote for him? however, if you never voted oppo because “it didnt convince you”, this was the oportunity to do just that
    b) part of the extra oppo 1M came from the newly registered voters.
    c) the most important of all: from the extra 2M of the govt, part came from the new voters, and the other part were forced voters. As I said in a), if you never voted chavez, why would you suddenly?

    The following table lists how the new voters split between gov and oppo


    To analyze the reach of the operacion remolque for forced voting, we must consider the previous table:
    – If the oppo didnt get a single new vote from previous abstention, and grew by 1M, then, the operacion remolque had a reach of 1M
    – Since registration was hindered and completely partial to the govt, the most logic assumption is that most of the new voters were pro govt. Considering the range between 80-60% pro govt new voters, operacion remolque could have moved about 0,6 million voters.
    – The total number of chavista voters, without forcing, ranges from 7.2-7.6 million.
    – The total number of hardcore chavista voters is between 6.2-6.6 million, because thats the number of chavistas that keep voting on whatever election comes up, the rest voting only if chavez is in the ballot.

    In conclusion: the possible best for maduro is:

    If we consider how maduro has fallen from grace within the chavista universe, since the demise of chavez, we can safely say that this fall is about (at least) 5% of the chavista electorate, so the most probable number of votes for maduro is 6.5 — 7.2.

    Now, share your thoughts on this, please 🙂

    • moctavio Says:

      What this says is the oppo has to go and vote like October and it still may lose if Maduro’s numbers are on the high end. The problem is Chavez is not around, bad that may make a big difference that we have a hard time understanding, Polls are not helpful, because they have not shown much detail.

  8. Ira Says:

    Why is the total abstention percentage of voters critical–when it’s the abstention numbers for each “party” that really matter? I don’t get it:

    It’s obvious that far more Chavistas are gonna sit this one out than Caprilistas.

    So is the argument that the Chavista majority is so great that only an overall huge abstention rate gives Capriles even a chance?

  9. Slledge77 Says:

    As I’ve said many times, to me it’s quite simple:

    -Pathetic lack of education, everywhere, including the ‘government”
    – Corruption, thieves, thugs, stealing money.
    – The Elite left the country a long time ago, except for a few, because we were afraid being killed for a pair of shoes.So what’s left ain’t much to write home about. So the educated brain power was severely depleted out of the country.

    – The Chavista Maduro Gang will cheat. Again. Sadly, this brave Capriles guy stands no chance.


  10. Michael Says:

    Miguel,from all the rallys I’ve seen for both Capriles and Maduro, HCR just has way bigger crowds, does that not constitute for something? If fraud happens(and chances are it will) what are the alternatives? Is there some way to get all the papers counted?

    • Moraima Garcia Says:

      Michael, rallies and crowds don’t win elections, votes do. The size is the crowds is irrelevant, the issue is who will go an vote. Also 54% of the votes are counted in every center, the sample is random and the actual paper results are compared to the acts. The only possibility of ballot fraud is if you don’t have witnesses at the table and for the audit of the center and opposition is much better now at that. The other element is the get out the vote drives, that’s our weakness.
      The open fraud is there for everyone to see, the use of state resources, the blatant CNE bias in their favor, etc. but that does not mean they will not get the votes and there will be some misterious switch at the CNE. If they have the votes in the boxes they don’t need to steal anything.
      Our only hope is that the opposition gets out in masse and some chavistas decide to sit this one out.

  11. Cristina Says:

    Miguel, what happened with the captahuellas? Will they be in place again?

  12. Maria Gonzalez Says:

    Abstention is the key, but also the abstention has to be bigger for the “rojos” than for the HCR’s supporters. Check this great analysis, HCR could win, it is not impossible, but very difficult.


    Overall we have to be happy if the narrowing gap if Maduro wins…it may not be what we really want, but it represents a huge step in the right direction. The alternative movement is growing, while the chavista movement is shrinking…the speed of this process may be slower that we want, but honestly I think it is going to happen…sooner or later.

    Why is abstention so difficult to predict? Here is a very important research question…somebody with the correct expertise needs to tackle this!

    Gracias por tu voto Octavio…

  13. syd Says:

    Congratulations and thank you, Miguel, for going the distance — literally — at a huge expense. (Is the high ticket cost due to your last-minute purchase?)

    • moctavio Says:

      No, the high price was just the airline taking advantage of the election. When I made my reservation two or three weeks ago, the plane was half full and coming one day closer to the election would cost 500 dollars more.

      • syd Says:

        Sorry to hear about the dent in your pocketbook. I don’t feel so bad about having to buy a new tire. Oh wait, according to Quico who is feeling very uppity or guilt-ridden about not voting, maybe I should stay at home, not drive, and contribute the money to the Capriles command’s efforts to mobilize impoverished sectors. Next he’ll be ranting on people having to use the toalla sanitaria bolivariana.

  14. Javier Mendey Says:

    Its going to be a very hard test for Venezuela and at the same time a chance to prove that the country is a true democracy.

    Because the chavista camp is not used to loose. And loose they will, come election time on Sunday. So we will observe if President Capriles can be inaugurated in this politically (for the time being) divided nation.


  15. Roberto N Says:

    What do you know of Datamatica?

    Check out this interview with JJ Rendon last night.

    • syd Says:

      yeah, I saw that, after wondering about the too-facile dismissal of Datamatica, on another blog.

      • moctavio Says:

        Venezuela is difficult to poll in. To have a foreign firm with no record arrive and start giving results that differ so much from the pollsters that have some form of positive track record is to me difficult to believe.

        • Moraima Garcia Says:

          JJ’s explanation of the difference in methodology was interesting. But also the comment as to how the trend is closing even in traditional pollsters. I think their strategy is to motivate the base to vote and feeling that you can win is key for that. We’ll see on Monday.

          • syd Says:

            I think their strategy is to motivate the base to vote and feeling that you can win is key for that.


  16. Roy Says:

    Abstention is one key. However, I think that there is a real possibility of many Chavistas going the polls with their red shirts and flags and then secretly voting for Capriles. In spite of foolishly voting in favor of their short-term interests, people do know what is going on. They know that the country is approaching an abyss. I think that a significant number are going to vote for not taking the final step into the void.

    • Virginia Says:

      Ah, what a wonderful world it would be for Venezuela, if this hold true!!
      Tomorrow, veremos! Vote CAPRILES..without his winning, Venezuela is finished!

    • island canuck Says:

      Roy, I thought that would happen in October & it didn’t.

      Last night my mother-in-law (Chavista) verbally attacked a foreign guest at her house who had the balls to say to her that Capriles appeared to be a good man.

      The tirade then developed into all the VTV poison.

      All foreigners are bad (including me I suppose although I wasn’t there), the US is the great Satan & only wants to rape the resources of Venezuela, the world is collapsing economically & only Venezuela will survive, that shortages & price increases are 100% the responsibility of the business owners, electrical faults are sabotage, etc., etc.

      She believes this crap 100%. If Maduro doesn’t win her life will be over. This is from a woman her sent her kids to Miami in the late 70s & early 80s & had a townhouse there so she knows deep down that this is all lies.

      She is not alone. The cult mania is as strong as ever. We’ll see on Sunday if the mentally challenged will wake up. I have my doubts.

      • Roy Says:


        No, your mother-in-law will not change her mind, and most of them will not. But, there are some who might. They are not all suicidal.

      • syd Says:

        That’s interesting, IC. But I’d like to know, why your MIL thinks that Maduro’s loss will mean her life will be over. Is it because she’s receiving a pension and doesn’t think she’ll receive it in a Capriles mandate?

      • island canuck Says:

        The reference to “her life will be over” was mine. Without her daily 5 or 6 hours of VTV veneno what will she do? Really, a lot of people spend all their time listening to the dribble that vomits forth from this channel 24 hours a day.

        What now if Capriles wins?

  17. I completely agree with you Devil, this scenario is closer to this atypical and infernal campaign, follow the abstention and maybe you will find the money…

  18. pdurum@yahoo.com Says:

    Ohh no, i respect your opinion but this time the Llaneros are not all with Maduro. They did not like been called “pata en el suelo”, not to mention how insulted they felt by the “Escuelas para Mongólicos” So, i think this time the polls are not updated to today’s sentiments toward ” el flaco” Capriles.

  19. Bruni Says:

    Whoever wins is going to get a mess of a country…

  20. moctavio Says:

    Let’s win first.

  21. Trader Says:

    Using a 30% abstention and I believe Capriles will get around 200k votes more this time, the result should be Capriles 6.8, Maduro 6.4. The only question is, would they respect the result?

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