Just a note on the recent spate of apparently contradictory polls. We’re seven months out from the election and, this far out, it’s only a tiny sliver of the population that’s paying any attention at all to the presidential election.
This truism is a function of a broader, deeper reality, one that political junkies like you and me have an extremely difficult time really accepting: normal people hate politics.
That’s not just my opinion: there’s a huge trove of academic research documenting this reality, much of it stateside. It’s a literature well summarized in this classic 2004 New Yorker article:
In election years from 1952 to 2000, when people were asked whether they cared who won the Presidential election, between twenty-two and forty-four per cent answered “don’t care” or “don’t know.” In 2000, eighteen per cent said that they decided which Presidential candidate to vote for only in the last two weeks of the campaign; five per cent, enough to swing most elections, decided the day they voted.
Seventy per cent of Americans cannot name their senators or their congressman. Forty-nine per cent believe that the President has the power to suspend the Constitution. Only about thirty per cent name an issue when they explain why they voted the way they did, and only a fifth hold consistent opinions on issues over time. Rephrasing poll questions reveals that many people don’t understand the issues that they have just offered an opinion on. According to polls conducted in 1987 and 1989, for example, between twenty and twenty-five per cent of the public thinks that too little is being spent on welfare, and between sixty-three and sixty-five per cent feels that too little is being spent on assistance to the poor.
Mutatis mutandi, you can be sure you’d find similar results in Venezuela.
The fact that you’re willingly, of your own accord, reading this blog places you in a tiny minority of freaks. Truly, we are the one percent.
That survey results are all over the place months and months before an election is neither here nor there. That a quarter of the electorate haven’t decided who to vote for is the opposite of surprising. Voters are low-information at the best of times, and seven months out is not the best of time. This is the reason we have campaigns – which, have you noticed, hasn’t actually started yet in Venezuela this year.
So let’s all take a deep breath. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And it hasn’t even started yet.