It ain’t over until it’s over: In defense of poll skepticism

“Sorry people, the poll from Datanalisis says we’re screwed. Forget about all this and go back to your homes. The last one to leave, please turn out the light if there’s not a blackout at the moment.”

This is the first time since I joined Caracas Chronicles that I write a post as a direct rebuttal to something written by either Quico or JC. I knew that this day was coming sooner or later. In fact, I’m excited about it, because some of my favorite CC posts in recent memory have been conversations between the two of them about issues.

It worked like this: Quico or JC wrote a post, then the other one wrote a post to criticize the whole previous post or just parts of it, then the original author wrote a response and so on. This wasn’t a refined version of a “Yo mama’s so fat” contest but actually it felt like a real grown-up conversation, filled with a sometimes heated debate of ideas but that was very respectful at the same time. They agreed sometimes and disagreed in others.

Let’s go straight to the point, shall we?

The latest poll by Datanalisis provoked discussions between Quico and some commenters, including yours truly. This wasn’t the first time. Quico responded with a post where he explains that the huge amount of public spending by the Chavernment will condition the upcoming election, hinting that the already slim chances of challenger Henrique Capriles of winning are now almost null.

Quico’s affirmation that the money windfall fueled by high oil prices will be a decisive factor in this election is not false. That is not what I am here to refute.

Creating an illusion of prosperity has been always “the ace in the hole” for Chavismo, just like in every single electoral process of the last decade.

Days ago, Quico wrote in an earlier post this nugget: “What’s for sure is that we’re heading into the weirdest, most volatile campaign in living memory.” He’s right on that too. The reality on the ground is that 2012 is not like 2004 or 2006 at all. Hell, it’s not even like 2010. This is a completely different ballgame we’re in.

Quico and JC have some confidence in Datanálisis. They have their reasons and I respect them. Personally, I don’t have any relation with a pollster company of any kind and, as you have read before, I have serious skepticism about Venezuelan pollsters in general, not just Datanálisis.

My skepticism is rooted in the fact the “public sphere” in which people’s opinions are formed is contaminated. The very thing polls are here to measure … is the first victim of the insane political climate Venezuelans enjoy day in, day out.

Our public sphere was already in trouble by the time Chavez took power. Mediocre journalism, lack of access to investigative sources, and laziness when explaining the issues were early symptoms. The “anti-politics” mentality present in our has not helped heal it. After the turbulent period of 2002-2003, the damage done to it was even greater … and it hasn’t fully recovered.

At the same time, Chavez has built his “communicational hegemony”, a well-funded media machinery dedicated to ideological propaganda 24/7 which, combined with ferocious repression against independent media outlets, has brought a severe limitation to the flow of information and diverse opinions.

There are other tools to manipulate the public sphere, including the use of intimidation. From the sofisticated to the more traditional and selective, it kindaworks. But the biggest method used is not even based on violent repression, but through economic coercion.

All those elements have conditioned Venezuelan public opinion in general. It’s not hard to see it. The conditions of this campaign won’t be fair at all.

Even if his position has been eroding since 2006, Hugo Chavez is without question the front-runner for the upcoming election. His campaign points into the emotional direction and will go full throttle from there. He has been forced to talk about security and can be put on the defensive on other issues. The only question about him now is how the health telenovela will influence the state of play.

Given these limitations and obstacles, Henrique’s campaign does its best while confronting some shortcomings. His discplined messaging has been successful in setting the issues agenda and energizing his own base, but it needs to evolve the next stage and show more ambition. He would benefit from expanding the overall theme and offeriing more detailed proposals.

His chances for victory are limited, his primary objective is to reduce the gap.

As a journalist, I would like to rely on trustworthy polls, but those in charge of doing them must be more transparent and open to scrutiny. We have enough black boxes in Venezuela. We don’t need more.

In the end, my main request is to let the campaign unfold. There are a little more than 100 days left, with the final stage on July 1st. To say right now that this game is over before even starting is an insult to all Venezuelan people, regardless of their position. They have the right to make their own minds, even those who have already somehow decided. And for those making arrogant statements: arrogance is a sign of weakness, not strength.

Whatever the final result is, then we can analyze it properly when all is said and done. In the meantime, it’s not over until it’s over.

100 thoughts on “It ain’t over until it’s over: In defense of poll skepticism

  1. Excellent article!, no more comments needed.

    In times like this is better to assume a more constructive and civilized attitude rather than the whole “we are screwed and there is nothing we can do” attitude, and throwing polls all over the blog with very week grounds and a very poor choice of words doesn’t help you either.

    So I think this is the kind of articles that makes a real contribution of how we should address the problems that the country is facing right now. By being CONSTRUCTIVE.

    • BTW, I haven’t seen any of you guys commenting anything about this casa por casa of Capriles, and the rallies around the country.

      I mean, are we for the polls only, or is that the people like to write here just for the sake of it, if FT, JC, GH have any ideas of how the opposition can make to gain the swing votes, or how to sway undecided people we would like to hear about it. Thanks

      CONSTRUCTIVE is the key word.

  2. Good one, Gustavo. When it comes to polling and electoral transparency, I usually find myself trapped between Quico and Alec’s positions, which makes me feel more than a bit schizo when trying to reconcile them. Thanks for articulating those feelings so well.

    • Gustavo, that was a good post, though I don’t think your position invalidates that of FT.

      Look, it is almost impossible to beat a multibillionaire in normal circumstances. Add to that the ignorance of our electorate, absolute control of all meaningful institutions, an utterly inept opposition class, and you can only conclude that there’s very little chance. If that. One doesn’t need to be a Luis Vicente Leon to realise this.

      There’s no point in burying heads in the sand, our reality -and I venture to say everyone else’s under similar conditions, is that he who has the biggest war chest wins. It’s all very well to argue otherwise, to feel positive about our hopes -esperanza es lo ultimo…- but the truth is that in order to stand a chance, Chavez’s hand needs to be forced. HCR has anywhere between 4 – 5 million votes in his pocket, REGARDLESS of what he does. For there are 4 – 5 million opposition voters in Venezuela who will, quite literally, vote for whoever has the best chances of ousting the dictator. Now there’s that futile conversation about the Ni Nis. Again, REGARDLESS of what HCR says, promises or does, a 100% participation will never happen, REGARDLESS of hopes to the contrary. For political apathy / disinterest is as real as the amount of money Chavez can spend.

      So let us stop kidding ourselves here -after all we’ve been wildly underestimating our opponent and overestimating our capacity since 1998- and let us plan for one thing only: presence of oppo witnesses in 100% of polling stations. That is achievable. Let us make sure that whatever the result, it was one with which we are totally sure about.

      In my opinion this is the crux of the matter, I don’t even have a problem recognising an electoral defeat, admitting that we are minority. To some readers of this blog any mention of my experience during the 2006 campaign it’s utterly unpalatable. However, I keep going back to that experience for it taught me a great deal of things:

      1) Cómo me resuelves / me vas a resolver tu a mi? That’s the first question, and is one which has immediacy about it. MOst Venezuelans don’t give a toss about the discussions that occupy the minds of readers of this blog. Rather, they want to know what they will get when. That’s it, that’s all. Violence? They’ve been dealing with it forever. Unemployment? They’ve dealing with it forever. Housing? Well… Disrespect to private property? Doesn’t affect them… Corruption? Can I get on in? As FT says they think with their pockets, everything else is irrelevant in most cases.

      2) Rural vote mata bailoterapia multitudinaria: risking to sound arrogant, no one is going to tell me that because a few hundred thousand people got out in support of HCR the deal is done. For I probably have, to this day, the most unbelievable photographic collection of contemporary political rallies in Venezuela, showing millions of people around the country in support for an opposition candidate, and yet, Chavez still got millions more. Did I see those millions? I didn’t, probably no one did, and I am not buying that preposterous argument that roll inflation is the product of “well oiled registration drives”. Fuck that. There are millions of votes in rural Venezuela, in some places Chavez’s been getting 100% of the vote. Alas in those places we didn’t have anyone ensuring that no monkey business was taking place (in fact we didn’t have witnesses in 40% of centres last time round).

      3) The professional political opposition, call it MUD, Coordinadora, UNT, whatever, is nothing but a bunch of losers, has beens, batequebraos, that keep recycling themselves in a never ending struggle to try and savage whatever migaja they happen to have. You go to their meetings and you can almost touch the distrust among them, they agree on something only to turn around and do something else. There’s no accountability, for no one wants to be accountable and no one feels that they should be made accountable by equally unaccountable people. Entre bomberos no se pisan la manguera.

      4) There is not one oppo politician with the ability to communicate at the level Chavez does. Not one. Beyond that, el abrazo, la mirada a los ojos, the unrestricted attention for a minute or two is the stuff of legends among the disenfranchised. They see themselves in Chavez, they didn’t see themselves in Rosales, and I very much doubt they do in HCR. So how do we counter that quasi emotional / spiritual / aspirational bond, considering that on top of it there’s money and other goodies to be had?

      So this is why I refuse to keep fooling myself. Venezuelans will tell whatever to pollsters, and vote according to their unique and personal needs. Between a tangible (Chavez’s misiones, goodies, etc.) and an intangible (promises from HCR et al) I know how I would vote -if I cared to vote- if I were a poor, barrio dweller.

      • Well, Alek, you are doing a hell of a job motivating people to achieve “the presence of oppo witnesses in 100% of polling stations.” How do you think this should be done? Do you have any constructive advice?

        • Gold, I don’t think all 3% readers of this blog need my motivation. In here, we are beyond that, everyone knowing what he/she will do come election day.

          What are the few institutions that have almost universal presence in Venezuela? It ain’t AD, UNT or PJ, that’s for sure. Further hint, where does voting in Venezuela take place?

          If I were responsible for such logistics, I’d try to get students on board, from university, bachillerato and primary schools (like in Cuba), and try to convince them that my vision is better and that they can effectively be a crucial part in regime change, as it has happened elsewhere. I would concentrate on them, for allegiance and collaboration from other oppo quarters is almost guaranteed.

          Instead of casa por casa, or while doing casa por casa, ensure to do colegio por colegio, liceo por liceo, etc.

          • Noted. Much, much better. “Constructive” is the key word at this point. There is enough destruction as it is.

        • Gustavo, thank you for a wonderful post…you are correct, the situation now is very different that any other election. The wild card of Chavez’s cancer will be a major factor that nobody can predict and HCR has to keep doing what he is doing. However FT is also correct on remind us how the most of the citizens in Venezuela only look at the every day reality…and they want to improve fast their current situation…Venezuelan’s always want everything “ahorita”. I will vote for HCR and try to do as much as a can for him to win…if he does not, well once again I am one of the “black sheep” in the family (country) that will always looking at the long term solucion when Venezuelas ask the goverment ” Ahorita you quiero ir a la Universidad, yo quiero un empleo decente, para comprarmw una casa” instead of the “Ahorita, chico, yo quiero que el gobierno me regale una casa ya!”
          Gold,
          It is sad to recognize but Alex is correct in my of his statements. However, you have a good point how can the oppo witness be present on 100 % of the polling stations? I do not have idea, I know it is a very hard task. Imagine a town of 500 or 1000 people that depends completely of the government for the few jobs that exist in the town, who is going to volunter to be a oppo witness?
          I honestly would like to know how this cam be achieved and what the MUD/Oppo is doing to solve the problem.

      • I agree with you that rural vote could kill HCR chances. Even if we win the cities by a narrow margin, big rural support could give Chavez the upper hand. Unless we win urban areas by a landslide (somewhat difficult), the opposition has to make important inroads in the rural areas and that will be very, very hard.

        Chavez’s charisma is still his biggest asset, but the difference between 2006 and 2012 is that people have finally see him governing a full term. That’s funny. He just didn’t govern at all and didn’t care for problems. His rule is more like a religious cult and it shows. But everyday problems have made him vulnerable: the blackouts, the shortages, the violence. He has throw tons of money to try to hide or reduce those problems and failed miserably. He has lost some of that aura of invincibility and even, some of his charm.

        The “Cómo me resuelves / me vas a resolver tu a mi?” argument is right. HCR needs to be more forthcoming on that. And about the opposition leadership: Even if they have show some improvements over time, they mostly still suck. Para muestra un boton: The political capital the MUD obtained in the National Assembly election was partly wasted by their lack of effort and selfishness: A big chunk of oppo deputies are running for Governors or Mayors, leaving aside their own responsibilities as representatives.

        They haven’t seized the chance they got to fight in parliament and present some contrast with Chavismo, even if Chavez enmasculated the power of the Legislative thanks to the Enabling Law. With some puntual exceptions, I give the MUD work in the NA a negative rating. Last but not least, we have too many parties. Many of them are “suitcase parties”. A political realignment is fundamental. Less is more. Of course, I don’t see it happening in the forseeable future. But it’s needed.

  3. With all due respect, Gus, I’m having trouble following your rebuttal here.
    I agree -we all do- that it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Anything can happen.
    But what’s your argument in favor of poll skepticism? That Venezuela is a “complicated” country, difficult to poll? How is it more complicated than Egypt, Morocco or even México? How come you trust a poll showing the Muslim Brotherhood ahead in a post-Mubarak Egypt, yet think Venezuela is unpollable?
    “Skepticism” is a school of thought born out of David Hume’s constant, rational, questioning, which leads to a scientific method.
    You’re talking about faith: you’re sure the poll is wrong, but don’t know really why and you’re unable to advance a rational argument sustaining your claim, other than “life is complicated”.
    Don’t get me wrong, I really hope HCR wins. But we’re talking about polls here and I fail to find a rebuttal anywhere in your text.

    • “As a journalist, I would like to rely on trustworthy polls, but those in charge of doing them must be more transparent and open to scrutiny. We have enough black boxes in Venezuela. We don’t need more.”

      A poll in itself is meaningless if you do not have the whole information. A 44-to-28 means nothing unless you can attest that the methodology was kosher.

      Besides, if you accept the numbers of Datanalisis prima facie just because it’s Datanalysis (I’m not even sure that it was Datanalisis), then you’re not much better than the guys that dismisses the poll because they don’t like the numbers.

    • Is not so much that Venezuela is “unpollable”, is the main belief of Quico or JC that Venezuelan polls are somewhat gathering good intel, when they are having serious difference of opinions one anther, they agrees only int that HCF is ahead, by how much?

      Nobody knows for sure and that is the thing, so of course we have to dismiss them, right now the authors of this blog, I don’t know which one, are saying that we should not dismiss one pollster because they have some years working in Venezuela, I’m not from that religion, so I don’t like to assume anything and take anything for granted.

    • My argument is we can’t take Venezuelan polls for granted, because of some particular circunstances that I explained in the post: the fear factor, the money factor, the limitation of dissent on the media and public life. Polls should not be the only way of measuring what’s going on. Neither should be looking at photos of rallys alone. It’s more complicated than that.

      The point is: Polls are not predictions of the future. They want to sell them as that and create therefore a sense of inevitability. I don’t like that. Not one bit. My use of skepticism is about not having those polls as the only way of describe the situation.

      Also, what you see cases like the 180 degree change of Oscar Schemel, who suddenly is Chavismo’s new best friend and this Seijas guy who is basically the invisible man, tells people how shady this poll business has become. In the case of Datanalisis, the last two polls have this high number of undecided voters and no other pollster have this. What the hell?

      Polls in general are facing more scrutiny around the world, given the changes in the way public opinion expresses and new forms of measurement. For example: There’s a discussion about relying on people with phone landlines or switching to people with cell phones. Other’s debate how the voting samples are formed. It’s not only around here.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. But, in case anyone contends that, it’s far for being an argument for not voting. I am practically sure that if Chávez is alive, he will win this election. However, if the MUD does its homework, he will not emerge from them unscathed, and will have it difficult presiding over the ruins left by his own mismanagement and megabribing, in midst of a world recession (sure, sure, we’re armored against it).

      I am deeply curious at what the scene will look like in February-April next year.

  4. You say “his chances of victory are limited, his primary objective is to reduce the gap”.

    I think that means he will lose, much as was said in the original post I believe.

    As an aside the intention to reduce the gap in a fully functioning democratic society is an honourable one. However in the in the commiesrus world it means zilch.

  5. Excellent post, Gustavo. I still think that there is a gap between the public and private opinions of the citizens who are being polled. While, there are still about 25-30% of the population who are Chavista brain-washed drones, I think that a significant portion of the publicly proclaimed Chavistas harbor moral misgivings and uncertainties about Chavez and his government. The “undecideds” certainly feel this way, but have not been convinced that Capriles would be any better. This group distrusts government and politicians in general (Gee, I wonder why…).

    It is common to dismiss the Venezuelan masses as amoral cretins. This is a mistake. Venezuelans, just like the rest of the population of the world, have an innate sense of compassion and fairness. Decades of amoral and immoral government and leaders have damaged the society’s moral compass, but that does not mean individual Venezuelans do not know the difference between right and wrong. Most of the Chavistas know in their hearts that the Chavista policies are wrong, but think that if there must be a privileged sector of the population, better it be them. And if there must be an oppressed sector of the population, better it be someone else instead of them.

    So, while the polls show Chavez ahead, I question the “depth” and “conviction” of that lead. If Capriles tries to out-Populist Chavez, he will lose. He would be playing Chavez’s game. Instead, he needs to high-light the moral differences between him and Chavez. He needs to convince the population that he is “honest” and “trustworthy”, and that his vision of government is the one that is transparent, accountable, responsible, and moral. If he can do that, he will galvanize the opposition, win over the undecideds, and maybe even turn a fair portion of the Chavistas.

  6. Truth be told, such smarty pants articles made Mr. Toro looks like the second coming of Rafael Poleo.
    Yes, we should probably stick to that old adage “quien vive de ilusiones, muere de desengaños” and avoid idiotic optimism. We saw the huge rallies during Rosales campaign and in the end it came to nothing. That might as well be the case now. However, doing nothing and betting all our money on Chavez’s untimely demise would be not only demoralizing but even suicidal.
    Furthermore, implying that the opposition leaders have no clue about the influence of the petro-checkbook is even cynical.
    Going back to the original Mr. Poleo, he’s probably onto something when he says it’s about emotional connection. People need hope. People need to understand how HCR’s plans will change or improve their lives. It’s not enough to say something vague about how experts are collaborating and how everybody is gonna work together. The question is: how can he improve Mercal, Barrio Adentro and the standard of living? What about telling people that no more food will go to waste under his government (Pudreval)? What about talking about how the bolibourgeois steal the cake and leave nothing but crumbs for the poor people? It’s goal is not only criticizing the government, it’s giving hope to the people.

  7. You omitted one very important aspect (not a detail!), on which you and Jeffrey House commented on the previous posts: Chavismo is polling under 50%, 44%, 42.6%, less and less according to Datanalisis. For a well entrenched incumbent hurling money around like there’s no tomorrow, having communicational hegemony and using intimidation discreetly where it can, this is an awfully weak showing. However chavismo can squeeze through like that and win…

    Chavismo’s chant that many Venezuelans love Hugo Chavez inconditionally and will vote for him out of love is utter crap. They cannot even get a majority with bribes and that’s good news with the present situation. Your hex ran out, Hugo.

    However… The percentage of “undecideds, Ninis or NS/NC”, people who won’t plain reveal who they will vote for or if they will not vote at all is huge. What of them?

    The question is, why isn’t Capriles’s vote growing? On one hand it’s a relief that polarization is less evident, on the other there’s a lot of disenchantment in the air. How to capitalize on this situation? How to get people to realize that it’s not over yet and will not be over until a long time after there’s is a change in administration?

    • That’s an interesting finding. If we take this poll at face value, then some sector is holding its support and wating to see what happens with Chavez’s health. The hardcore will follow him no matter what. But there could be a growing sector of his base that is more uneasy. They could be only waiting, perhaps considering the other option (HCR).

      Honestly, I dunno.

    • What a sad hack Puzkas is. Really, he’s going to throughout Predicmática, JDP and GIS XXI polls without a health warning?! He KNOWS those are fake pollsters, maletín based and wholly fraudulent. Still they’re in there. Ugh.

      I can’t stomach the guy.

      • Jeje… Your pique with Puzkas is cute.

        The point of that article was quite plain: it was a health warning against ALL venezuelan pollsters. Your beloved Datanálisis, with its leaked telephone poll where “33% de los encuestados *no responde* por quién votará”, belongs right there in that list with those “maletín based and wholly fraudulent” pollsters.

        I believe many of our fellow countrymen, particularly expats like you, are seriously misreading Venezuela’s “Proceso”. A la hora de opinar sobre este verguero, y perdóname la “Aleksada”, estás meando fuera del peról desde have ratísimo. En tu caso particular, you are failing to see the forrest while being thousands of miles away.

        Fact is, this sorry excuse for a country has been a delegative “democracy” for a while. (gotta love Wikipedia). We have delegated it to Cuba, with all the nasty implications. There is going to be a “reacomodo” in the coming months, and the options on the parking lot don’t include no progress güagüa. This is going to be a contest between La Habana and Godgiven. Mafia 1 versus Mafia 2.

        Sorry for the rant, the spanglish, the profanity and the hyperbole. Como que de tanto leerte se me pegó la guevonada.

        ps. I am ashamed to admit that I refused to even engage in a landline telephone poll the other day. Hung up after 5 seconds. I wonder if that makes me an “undecided” in their shitty polls, apart from a wuss and/or a paranoid. Fuck it, this time I’m putting my formal email in the details below. After all, i’m also a citizen of the Evil Empire. Cualquier vaina salgo corriendo pa la embajada jeje.

      • Luis Vicente León hoy:
        “Durante ese período, lo único que crecieron fueron los indecisos que alcanzaron 30% y hacían inestable cualquier proyección”

  8. Gustavo certainly gives the readers what they want. I suggest you all Google what pollsters have been the most accurate in predicting results in recent electoral campaigns. To put you out of your misery you will find that it has been GISXXI – yes Jesse Chaqcon´s polling outfit or the one you all love to hate. He’s predicting around 56 – 57 percent for Chavez so you can forget all this BSW about 44% for Chavez which Luis Vicente puts out.

    I can’t imagine how you are all going to feel in the small hours of October 8th. I guess you can cry fraud…………….

    • Would that be the same Jesse Chacon who predicted that it was impossible that chavismo would lose its super-majority in the last legislative elections? Or perhaps that was his evil twin brother?

  9. I don’t think we actually disagree, Geha. I think the real fault line is where you write that I was hinting that the already slim chances of challenger Henrique Capriles of winning are now almost null.

    That’s just a big misreading of what I was saying.

    I know it’s a cliché, but it needs to be repeated again and again because it’s a big source of confusion: a poll is a snapshot, a portrait of public opinion at the time when the question is asked. But public opinion changes, of course. That’s the whole point of campaigning, isn’t it?

    Saying that polls are a snapshot is the same thing as saying they are not a prediction. This is something that people seem not to grasp at all. People read that Datanalisis poll and they think it means Datanalisis is predicting Chávez is going to win 44-28 on October 7th. This is emphatically not what the poll shows. The poll shows the situation as it was back in May. But Gil Yepez isn’t a Shaman, and LVL isn’t clairvoyant. They can no more tell us what that’s going to meaan in October than the guy you run into at the panadería can.

    So I’m not throwing in the towel at all. I’m just saying that it should surprise no one that a guy with $128 bn. to throw around starts out with a lede. I’m still sort of staggered that that’s a controversial point.

    • I just said that in a response up there that polls should not be seen as predictions. You and I agree on that. And pollsters and the media must insist on this. But they won’t.

      Even if I seriously think you didn’t try to say. “It’s Over. Let’s go the towel and go home”, some of the language you used in the post hinted at that. I think you oversold your point so much that sounded like an unintentional admission of defeat.

        • OK guys. How many people are looking at current Venezuelan polls in order to find out what people were thinking last month? And how many are looking at them so as to obtain information that will help them predict what might happen in October? Upwards of 99%, I suggest, belong to the latter category. So if all we have is a snapshot, then, frankly, let’s spare ourselves the bother of reading the damn’ things altogether. The poll itself is not the prediction: the poll is raw material to be used in order to make predictions. Good predictions are worth their weight in gold. And it seems blindingly obvious that unless we have some serious analysis of that huge segment of the population that can’t or won’t reveal its (their) true opinion, we’re simply blundering about in the dark. The Public Policy Unit of the Catholic University (UCAB) recently did just such a study, which is summarised in the current edition of El Ucabista. To summarise the summary, they found that 29.5% of the electorate was not ‘unconditionally’ linked to either government or opposition, but that only 5% were genuinely non-aligned (this coincides, more or less, with findings by other researchers). The remaining 24.5% broke down into 11% who were more inclined towards the government and 13.6% ditto the opposition. The whole thing hinges, obviously enough, on Capriles’ ability to persuade the oppo-inclined to turn out for him, and Chavez’ ability to – at least – stop the 11% drifting into Capriles’ camp. The scale of the challenge for Capriles is perhaps best expressed in the following way: even if Capriles persuades all the opposition-inclined ‘ni nis’ to vote for him, Chavez could still – based on current polling results – win the election.

    • I am not sure that it is controversial that Chavez, with his insanely high name recognition, starts with an advantage over someone named Capriles.

      I think your post raised eyebrows because of it’s contention that the poll was “terrible” for the Opposition,

      I know that when I was involved in electoral politics as a back-room genius, we thought 44% for a well-known incumbent screamed “vulnerable.” We would fund raise based on that.

      I think your original post underestimated that.

  10. Frankly, I did not like this post at all. Skepticism about polls is valid, but you have to have a reason for it. Just saying that the public sphere is “contaminated” is not enough … where is it NOT contaminated? Public opinion is polluted everywhere, and that manifests itself in weird voting patterns. The point of polling is to capture those trends, not to decontaminate them.

    I’m skeptical of certain polls, but that’s based on their actual track record. Just being skeptical for the sake of it, or because it’s better to keep our base motivated, is just not kosher for me.

    • True. No public sphere in the world is 100% clean, but here is toxic beyond belief. Polls are not the cause of that, I agree, but they have not help themselves with their behavior.

    • I agree with you. I’ve been comparing the Venezuelan polls to other countries and I think our pollsters are plain ridiculous. The variation in vote intention and undecideds for instance is way too much.

      • And it is the undecideds that is so telling in this last poll. The ommission of that undecided factor, as well as other questionable matters, lent that last FP write-up an air of imbalance and manipulation, when not showing off by the use of too many adjectives for a trained journalist.

    • Yeah because the working years of the polls qualifies as a valid reason to support it.

      Nobody is going to win just by wielding polls all over the media, specially in a polarized society like the Venezuelan one, in such situation what the polls are for?, none if you want to gain people to your cause, unless you use those to increase the level of undecideds of your opponent.

      Boccaranda warned about this poll war long ago, and you people are just graciously playing in the hand of Chavista Bhuda.

      Is good that none of you are having any direct responsibility in the Opposition campaign, at least that we know of, otherwise we’ll be all doomed for sure.

    • There are levels of “contamination” every public sphere can absorve and tolerate. But in our case, the levels are so high that if it keeps the same path, it will be damaged beyond repair and dissapear. The only thing remaining could be: “Ordene, comandante, ordene”

  11. Gustavo, I enjoyed the balance in your post, a balance much needed to diffuse the whipped up partiality by others. Thank you.

  12. If “pollstering” can’t be trusted, when a pollster company matched the prediction (e.i. what it said before the election is pretty close to the numbers after the election), simplemente “la pegó” or what?

    • Venezuelan “Pollstering” as it exists today can’t be completely trusted IMHO. If another person wants to trust in them, it’s their free choice. Polls are not predictions, that is not their original purpose. Sadly they have become some sort of fortune telling for the public. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re not. But that’s not their supposed intention.

      Polls are a way to have a cuantitative measure of what people think of something, because it’s impossible to know what a whole city or country thinks. Instead, the interested parts take a sample (it could be general o a more specific sector, depending for the use the poll will have.) Polls are not infalible and they can be shifted in many ways: the maths and statistical elements, the framing of the questions and the posterior interpretation of the answers.

      For example, take a poll of the government’s most “legitimate” pollster: GIS XXI. Look at the way the questions are written. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

    • Geez, those wonderful unbiased Chavista Polls again: Chavez-xxx%, “Candidato De La Derecha”-yyy%. C’mon Eva Arturo (Shaw), even you don’t believe these!!!

    • Why yes! these are most reliable polls, of course!

      Son of god, Father of Bolivar, liberator of Venezuela Chavez xx%
      Son of devil and child molester candidate of the right -yy%

      Just when I though that nobody could ever surpassed FT in the art of publishing “unquestionable” polls.

  13. Without underestimating the power of Chavista coercion/payments/fraud, I think we all should remember that in the probably semi-fraudulent Asamblea recent elections (for which, I believe, we still don’t have final results), the Oppo beat Chavismo by 52-48, in spite of gerrymandering, and, more importantly, in spite of a healthy/visible Chavez going all out and putting his image/charisma on the line for his PSUV candidates in an incredible/illegal propaganda blitz. If this wasn’t a referendum on him personally and an indication of the real future, what is???

      • I am truly convinced that many of the confused are on this Blog. Capriles is not a shoe-in for obvious reasons-the foxes run the hen house. But, the majority opining here are a combination of deaf defeatists, or intellectual ex-pats seriously out-of-touch with Venezuelan reality, or local intellectuals looking down from their East Caracas towers. All should listen to those who have poor family in Venezuela, who have been in the barrios, who have been to a Capriles march/demonstration, who have really studied the RR results/critiques/Asamblea election results. As for polls, forget them–you’re not in Kansas anymore!!!

          • It’s very simple: Capriles is going far, far out of his way to show he has no personal animosity towards chavistas, and that he’s going to govern for them as much as he is for his supporters. That photo is a visual actualization of his rhetoric – I think it’s dead on.

          • My comment is in general, not for you/your comment. The foto, who knows?-seems real, maybe not, but not significant. And yes, “we are a confused people”, especially meaning the “Pueblo”, but the self-styled intellectual analysts on this Blog writing for peer-reviewed international publications/internet should not be.

          • What If….?

            The woman on the right is afraid that her local consejo comunal will come after her after being seen commingling with the majunche so she holds that humongous picture of the comandante presidente as a shield.

            Where’s Errol Morris when you need him?

  14. Here in the U.S., we love underdogs. If a seemingly invincible sports team looks vulnerable to a lesser team, the lesser team will get support out of nowhere. It makes a great show. This underdog logic could help Capriles

    • I think everyone is like that around the world, in general, just fits the Power of Myth and all. I hope, actually, that the chavista’s play up that photo of Chavez and Capriles. Makes him more of an underdog, makes people sympathetic toward him. “He’s just the tax geek who wants to make a difference!”

  15. I am with you sir. So the horse race looks bad. Ok, fine, but f-k the horse race. Is that not where we are here? Did Vaclav Havel think to himself, as he rotted in prison, what are the chances that my side will ever win? Maybe, but if that was his motivation, he’d still be rotting in jail. Did Vincente Fox think to himself, when he was going door to door in Sonora or some such place, man, there’s 70 years of history and the revenue of a gigantic state oil company against me winning. Sure, and he also said on some level, who cares, I am right. If this is not a democracy movement now, which I think it is, it will be soon, so ok, acknowledge the horse race for what it is and why it is, and then say f-k it and move forward.

    • Algo que no me cuadra es, if the polls are correct and the horse race “looks bad”: why is the (not so) quiet desperation in the castrochavista camp so….extreme? Jorgito needs Dramamine, Jaua says that none of them -pero es que ni de vaina- wants to be HC’s successor. Is it because they saw Lugo’s political trial coming? The oil price going down? The debacle of the “viernes económicos” with HC “repotenciado”? I mean -bollgers!-, even the Lone Troll here is in desperate mode already. Please, explain.

      • Any poll which does not show HCR with a huge and decisive lead to me looks bad. That poll, apparently, does not exist, so they all look bad. My point is, you can be on the wrong side of the polls and on the right side of history. So no need to despair. It sounds like you would agree on that last point.

        • I agree. What’s confusing is the general state of desperation and disarray in Chávez’ camp. Es que no dan pie con bola. OTOH, I see a calm and collected determination on Capriles’ side. His campaign is gaining a momentum that is palpable EVERYWHERE but the polls. That’s weird, to say the least.

  16. You trust polls that have a good track record. C21 has an excellent one, missing the numbers by a significant margin only in the 2004 recall vote, where they predicted Chavez would win in any case. Datanalisis seems to be fine up to two weeks before votes, when they startmaking hedging statements, many of whichhave been wrong. They were wrongon the Constitutional referendum and they were wrong on the Assembly vote,C21 was not. The restare all hacks, includingfakepollst Chacon, he of Chavismo winning the Assembly vote and Hinterlaces of Maria Corina is the onlyone with a chance to beat Capriles call.Currently C21says, Capriles down by 7% among voters thatsay they intend to vote,, their undecided is about half Datanalisis’ 33%.

    In the old days, it was Mediopsa that wouldnail it everytime, until its ownerSegundo Cazalis passed away.

    You can’t trust all pollsters, but if you followthe reliable ones, theydoa verygoodjob, despite people not believing in them.

    • I agree. I’m waiting for C21 numbers. It’s the only one I remember always being closer to reality.

    • “You can’t trust all pollsters, but if you followthe reliable ones, theydoa verygoodjob, despite people not believing in them”
      Correct!

      • Not quite. Assistance to rallys doesn’t neccesary translate into votes. It indicates how energized the base is (those who are 100% sure of support their choice no matter what), but undecided voters (who usually stay away of these events) are looking for other things to consider before taking a decision and they don’t care about how big rallys are.

        Let’s put it this way: Obama will surely beat Romney in rally assistance this fall, but all indicates the U.S. presidential race will be close.

        It’s important that the base is motivated and that sends a message of optimism and commitment to actually get all the votes to win.

        • Of course, but my point is that rallys are better than crooked polls. As for FT’s ‘We have learned nothing from the last 13 years,” yes, we have, we learned that Chavez/Chavismo/CNE fix elections in a variety of ways, but that there are countermeasures that can be taken. As for rally size, except possibly for Maracaibo, Rosales had nothing near the attendance of the Capriles’ rallies.

          • “Rallys are better than crooked polls”.
            I agree. If that wasn’t the case, the G2 wouldn’t force the public employees to go to Chavez’ rallies.

            • Exactly. Just once it would be nice to see Chavez have a rally where people weren’t coerced into going & by busing in people from all over the country.

              How many do you think would show up?

  17. I hear a lot of people from the opposition make claims that the elections are fixed. While I don’t doubt that this could be a possibility, where is the evidence for these claims? These conspiracy theories only serve to undermine the electoral process. It is my understanding that the opposition has won on some occasions, were the elections fixed then too? As far as polling is concerned, those things change wherever the winds blows.

    • Yes, you’re right. There is no hard evidence of electoral fraud. However, it does not mean that the elections are kosher. The office in charge of elections is blatantly pro-government, Former chairman of the electoral office became later Vice-president and Judge of the Supreme Court as reward for their dirty work.
      Besides, electoral fraud is not what it used to be. It’s not just about ballot stuffing. You can read this article about electoral fraud nowadays:
      http://www.economist.com/node/21548933

    • Yes, the elections are fixed (e.g., the RR–read the Exit Poll/many statistical studies). They were also fixed where the Oppo won, but the Military/some Oppo stood up to force an approximation of the true results. They are so fixed that the CNE hasn’t even published final results of the recent ones!!! BUT, Capriles and his camp are no fools. They are well-educated, sharp, hopefully will have observers at all polling stations and in the “Sala de Totalizacion”, and this time will stand up against any attempted fraud without the sell-out.which has occurred in the past (RR/Rosales).

      • The fact is that there are many ways of manipulating the electorate. The state may have its tactics just like the opposition has theirs. To say that only the Chavez supporters cheat is absurd. It is extremely bias to hold that position and it’s part of the saturation in Venezuelan politics. The concept of “objectivity” is non-existent. Until there is hard evidence the claim of fixed elections remains in the realm of conspiracy theory.

        • Puhleeze!! The Chavistas control the electoral machinery/process from bottom to top–and you think the Oppo can cheat??? For hard evidence, look up the Recall Referendum: Exit Poll (60-40 win for recall, as I recall–numbers were reversed presumably by new SmartMatic voting machines). O.K., so Exit Polls aren’t really votes-then wade through the various U.S.-published serious statistical studies showing fraud in the RR. Chavez is basically illegitimate since the RR in 2004.

          • My friend you are relying on the wrong people for information. Contrary to popular belief the U.S. doesn’t have the moral high ground when it comes to democracy and even less when it comes to election rigging. The 2000 election is a perfect example of electorate manipulation. In fact it was straight-up fraud because everyone now knows that Gore was the winner in Florida, and that is fact. If you’re looking for objectivity you are barking up the wrong tree.

            Here is a thought, if we are going to spew theories on election fraud lets come-up with one for the opposition. Let’s say money is the key factor. It’s no secret that in Venezuela (government officials or not) people will do anything for the right price. Therefore, the right-wing machine, with their international supporters, is channeling huge amounts of dollars to their candidate. This money of course will be used where it counts most. It sounds to me that some people at the CNE will be relocating to Weston soon. How’s that for a conspiracy theory? Absurd, isn’t? Well when I hear people talk of fraud with no evidence that’s kind of how they sound.

            • I can tell you “objectively ” that the CNE is by constitutional mandate an independent power, but he government has appointed members of the PSUV as its rectors. Aditionally, the CNE has violated the constitutional principle of proportional representation and actively and shamelessly gerrymandered several districts in the parliamentary elections to favor Chavismo. It has inexplicably refused to release the results of the amendment referendum. (In spite of having a extremely expensive and state of the art and very expensive election system) It refuses to sanction Chavismo for its patent violation of campaigning electoral laws. It constantly compromises its own credibility for the opposition to take the bait and cry fraud. It refuse to allow an independent audit of the franchise.
              Ironic that a person who comes here to serve as a apologist for a authoritarian government of a country from which probably knows very little to demands objective facts.

  18. I will suggest that you refrain from personal attacks. You’re the one that ends up looking foolish and it doesn’t help your argument. You don’t know anything about me or my knowledge of Venezuela to make your assumptions. I’m not coming to this forum to be apologetic for an authoritative government, but if a difference of opinion is not welcomed than that shows the authoritative character of the forum. It’s kind of self-defeating, don’t you think?

    Going back to your claim: “the CNE has violated the constitutional principle of proportional representation and actively and shamelessly gerrymandered several districts in the parliamentary elections to favor Chavismo.” Where is your evidence for such an accusation? There is none; therefore, your claim falls short of serious criticism. Let’s not forget that the opposition has had some victories under this so-called “fraudulent,” “corrupt,” and “authoritative” CNE. Those victories run contradictory to your insinuation, and frankly if it was an actual tyranny the opposition wouldn’t exist; that is how “real” tyrannies behave.

    • I’m not making an obscure or revolutionary claim that I consider that I need to back. The distortion of the proportional representation and gerrymandering in the Venezuelan system has been widely known and discussed. In the parliamentary elections of 2010 the government obtained 98 out of 165 seats in the National Assembly with 48% of the popular vote. I questioned your knowledge of Venezuelan reality because you don’t even give the answers that an informed Chavista would.
      Where is the prove to your claim the Gore won Florida? You don’t give it because you consider that because I’m mildly familiar with the case, you are only requesting evidence of claims that oppose yours.

      • CACR :Evidence for your statements is common knowledge/has been widely in the independent media for those who know Venezuela. Similarly, that the Chavez Government is a super-corrupt anti-Constitutional autocracy upheld by a corrupt Supreme Court/Legislature. The International Left is not interested in facts. Differences of opinion on this Blog abound, but we all try to be factual. Not so Allan Vega. Bush was awarded the Presidential Election over Gore by a 5-4 decision of the U. S. Supreme Court (that’s Democracy-no 100% Venezuelan Supreme Court anti-Constitutional pro-Chavez decisions!!) A subsequent “Washington Post” (11/12/2001 P.AO1)/other media study showed that in the Gore lawyer 4-disputed Fla. County requested recount, Bush still would have won regardless of the method used, as well as in a Limited Fla. Statewide recount. No full Fla. statewide recount was provided for under the Fla. State Constitution, and, in any event, Gore did not insist on this.

        • Wait, are you trying to make the same argument that Chavez supporters make by hiding behind a corrupt system and saying it’s alright because it’s in the constitution? That is the most hilarious thing I have ever read coming from the opposition. Using the same argument! You guys have a lot in common.

          We could really go back and forth debating the Supreme Court’s decision in Florida. You’re not taking into consideration the uncounted ballots, media proliferation, Jeb, African Americans who were not allowed to vote, the legality of the “butterfly” ballot, and the many fiascos that became “Floridagate.” Getting your facts from a wiki page doesn’t constitute as research; furthermore, the U.S. should not be your role model when it comes to democratic principles. Anyway, back to issue at hand. You say that statements of fraud are common knowledge, right? Well that may be true but it still doesn’t get you anywhere because cases are not built on common knowledge. I’m sure Chavez supporters spin the issue very well, and just like you did with Florida 2000, they hide and say everything they are doing is legal under the constitution so it’s OK. I don’t have anything invested in Chavez to have an opinion that is for or against, nor am I an expert of the Venezuelan spin machine. But what I do know is that the opposition has gotten victories under this so-called fraudulent system. That really is impossible under a dictatorship, but as you say facts don’t matter, right? Wasn’t the corrupt CNE who counted those victories for the opposition? You can’t celebrate when you win and cry foul when you lose. Can’t you see that you just end up looking like a sore loser? That doesn’t help your cause.

            • Game, set, match.

              Allan Vega is finished, there’s no coming back from such a strong refutation of the very point he just spent five comments making. He can keep arguing, but unless he’s willing to argue Chile was a democracy under Pinochet, he’s obviously lost. It would however be amusing to see a (probable) PSF defend Pinochet.

          • The butterfly ballot was decided upon by a committee controlled by Democrats, not Jeb Bush. So yes, you are right, there are real differences. The Florida ballots may have favored Bush, but it was accidentally so (unless you are suggesting that Florida Democrats in the 1990s planned the help Bush get elected in 2000).

            Venezuelan electoral districts on the other hand were arranged in a way which heavily favored Chavez, by people who are Chavistas. They allowed Chavez’s party to win at least a dozen more seats than they would have under the old system. At the very least, the Venezuelan case stinks a lot more.

            • Are you trying to draw parallels between Chavez and Pinochet? I don’t think this is the route you want to go on. The conditions were entirely different and nobody in their right mind will defend Pinochet. However, that shouldn’t diminish the elections that eventually became his end. Do you have any idea why they held elections in Chile when they did? Was the electorate similar to the one in Venezuela? Was the opposition as open as in Venezuela? What other democratic institutions existed in Chile? The two are not identical and you can try and call them the same, but the pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit. My whole idea regarding these posts is that the opposition does not have sufficient evidence for their accusations, but it seems to me that none of you can understand that simple concept. I don’t doubt that the CNE is bias but that doesn’t mean that it is rigging the election. It is possible? Yes. Is there evidence? No. Simple!

              In regards to the butterfly ballot it is not an issue of partisan politics. I never said Jeb Bush was its architect; his role was entirely different. It is an issue of its legality. The entire Florida fiasco is plague with inconsistencies and legal sophistry (like in Venezuela.) The difference here is that we have evidence to back the claims. Not to mention the fact that Bush was “selected” by a group of judges. I wonder if the Supreme Court “selects” Chavez as president. I can safely assume that your heads will explode.

              • Bush wasn’t “selected” by a group of judges–the Supreme Court upheld the LAW, which is a difficult concept for Leftists to understand, since in their favorite countries the law is subservient to man (as in Venezuela), rather than vice versa.

              • I’m not comparing Chavez to Pinochet. I’m just disproving your claim that opposition parties do not win elections in dictatorial governments with the example of an opposition winning a key election in of the most fierce dictatorships in Latin America.

          • Counted? We know the opposition won the 2007 referendum, but we don’t know by how much. We were never told the final result.

  19. I think Capriles has a good chance to win over less committed Chavez leaning voters.Many of these voters are basically unhappy with the performance of the government but feel a personal attraction to Chavez himself for who they think cares deeply about them, even though ” those around him” have not allowed him to deliver.

    In a situation where Chavez might die of his illness, even it is in one or 2 years, these voters will be left with ” those around Chavez” in charge, with all their ineptitude and corruption.In other words they will keep what is bad about Chavismo without their beloved benefactor to help them anymore.

    Chavez himself has been emphasizing over the years that his minsters are to blame for all that has gone wrong with his government, while he himself has been infallible.

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