Another Venezuelan Poll

The polls conducted by Datanalysis have shown that President Hugo Chávez will receive about 30%-40% support in a recall referendum.  However, I have some reservations about whether these are properly conducted polls as opposed to propaganda devices, since Datanalysis has gone beyond the role of an objective poll-taker to becoming an active advocate in the political process.

Now is reporting on a different poll:

El Mundo has published results in a September survey covering 30 parishes in the Caracas municipalities of Libertador, Sucre, Baruta, El Hatillo and Chacao showing that 51% of those living in Caracas would vote to keep President in office in an eventual recall referendum with only 31% voting to revoke his mandate.

The study was completed by the Statistical Bureau of Venezuela (BEV) ... a scientific polling company run by professors at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV).

It covers the mostly working class municipalities of Libertador and Sucre, where the government party, Movimiento Quinto Republica (MVR) and Chavez have majority support; Baruta and Chacao, both affluent areas where opposition Primero Justicia dominates; and El Hatillo, an upper class municipality whose Mayor is from opposition Proyecto Venezuela and where Chavez Frias has few supporters.

In general terms, those surveyed have a positive opinion of social programs such as the government's literacy campaign and the Barrio Adentro plan for medical attention to the poor.

Both the literacy campaign and Barrio Adentro have received assistance from Cuba and the Cuban literacy method has been criticized by the opposition as a way to introduce Cuban communism into the minds of the poor ... it is mostly run by Cuban doctors who have set up camp in the poorest inaccessible shantytowns of Caracas to compensate for Venezuela’s inadequate public health system.  The Cuban method has, nevertheless, received international recognition from UNESCO.

According to the survey, 61% of those living in Caracas think that the literacy campaign is really targeted towards eliminating illiteracy; 14% think it is geared towards introducing "communist ideology" and an equal percentage think that it is a way to attract votes for the recall referendum.

When asked how they would vote in an eventual recall referendum, 51% said they would ratify Chavez into the Presidency; 31% would vote to revoke his mandate; 12% would abstain and 3% did not know or did not answer.

In Libertador 61% would vote to keep Chavez in power; 60% in Sucre; 22% in Baruta; 17% in Chacao; 3% in El Hatillo.

In El Hatillo, 93% want Chavez out; 64% in Chacao; 57% in Baruta; 21% in Libertador; 18% in Sucre.

The survey shows that Chavez continues having overwhelming support among the poor in spite of the country’s economic problems and the media’s anti-government campaign.

Parishes: 30 in the Metropolitan Caracas area
Places of interview: Shopping centers, Metro stations, bus stops in poor neighborhoods, city squares and markets
Gender: M: 52%; F: 47%
Age: More than 18 years old
Labor situation: Employed: 54%; unemployed: 39%; retired: 4%

Libertador (2.061.094)
Sucre (607.481)
Baruta (289.820)
Chacao (71.806)
El Hatillo (60.246)

This BEV study discloses more about their sampling methodology than the Datanalysis polls, which I deemed to be suspect because it is well-known that their interviewers are not welcomed in the barrios.  But I believe that even the BEV study is likely to understate the support for Chávez because they were running an intercept study ("shopping centers, Metro stations, bus stops in poor neighborhoods, city squares and markets").  Elsewhere, I have described the geography of Caracas and its implications for survey research (see article).  If this BEV study were done with door-to-door face-to-face interviews, they would have encountered more people in the barrios high up in the hills who do not go into town often (such as housewives with children and housebound retirees) and who are much more likely to appreciate the Barrio Adentro and literacy programs.

Here are the political and demographic realities for the opposiiton --- this is a one-person-one-vote democratic recall referendum (to be followed by a presidential election, if necessary).  There are many more poor lower class people in the population (e.g. Libertador and Sucre) than upper-middle class people (e.g. El Hatillo, Chacao and Baruta) in Venezuela.  To have any hope of winning, the opposition must persuade the poor lower class people to vote against Chávez.  

At present, Chávez is wrapping the popular Barrio Adentro and literary programs with this referendum/election.  The Barrio Adentro program brings in Cuban medical and healthcare workers to provide door-to-door healthcare in the barrios.  The reality is that nobody there wants to go back to the pre-Chávez days when one has to rise up early in the morning to walk down the hillside to go to a government clinic to receive medical attention after waiting on line for hours.  The position of the Venezuelan professional medical association is that their doctors do not get paid enough to go to work in the barrios which are unsafe.  In other words, they won't do as the Cubans do.  More generally, the opposition does not have an official position on the future of the Barrio Adentro program since the opposition is a coalition of assorted organizations that range from far right to far left in political positions.  The most vocal position that is articulated by some opposition members as part of the anti-Chavista meme is that the Barrio Adentro program is a Cuban communist plot that should be dismantled forthwith.  This is no way to win the hearts and minds of the people of the barrios.  The disarray here is indicative of the lack of a positive approach by the opposition, which is unified only by its anti-Chavista sentiments.