Political Polls in Venezuela

One forecast:

(BloombergVenezuela Chavez Would Lose Recall Vote, Poll Finds.  By Peter Wilson and Lauro Zelenko.  June 23, 2004.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would lose a recall vote scheduled for Aug. 15, according to a poll taken last month by independent Datanalisis polling agency.

Interviews of 1,300 Venezuelans, done in person between May 10 and May 19 in eight regions, found 57.4 percent of people who said they were likely to vote want Chavez removed, while 42.6 percent would vote for him to stay as president. The poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

The poll indicates that about 65 percent of the country's 12.5 million registered voters plan to vote, giving Chavez 3.44 million votes and the opposition 4.64 million, more than the 3.76 million required to oust Chavez, Datanalisis said.

"Chavez isn't completely out of the game, but he's in trouble,'' said Datanalisis analyst Luis Leon in a meeting with the foreign press. "If the vote happens legally, Chavez should lose.''

A quick rebuttal:

(Narcosphere)  Bloomberg Screws-Up Venezuela Report.  By Al Giordano.  June 23, 2004.

To: Peter Wilson, "reporter" for Bloomberg, in Venezuela - pewilson@bloomberg.net
CC: Laura Zelenko, "editor responsible for this story" - lzelenko@bloomberg.net
From: Al Giordano, Publisher, Narco News


A quick question regarding your "report" today: Venezuela Chavez Would Lose Recall Vote, Poll Finds (Update1)

When you take dictation from notorious opposition partisans, is it standard practice at Bloomberg to use only one unquestioned source for a story like that?

Okay, a second question:

When "reporting" a story, do you conduct even a one-minute Google search on the sole source whose credibility you accept unchallenged in the story?

Here... Let me do your work for you, retroactively...

By Justin Delacour
Special to the Narco News Bulletin
January 22, 2003

I'll even paste the text below for ya.

Here is an interesting excerpt.

From a Los Angeles Times article (Jose Antonio Gil is the owner of Datanalisis):

"Jose Antonio Gil is among Venezuela’s elite.

"He moves in circles of money, power and influence. He was educated in top U.S. schools. He heads of one of the country’s most prestigious polling firms.

"And he can see only one way out of the political crisis surrounding President Hugo Chavez.

“'He has to be killed,' he said, using his finger to stab the table in his office far above this capital’s filthy streets. 'He has to be killed.'"

(Imagine if a United States "pollster" said of George Bush (or John Kerry, or Michael Bloomberg, for that matter), "He has to be killed" - and in the LA Times of all places. Do you think he would ever be taken credibily again as a pollster? Would Bloomberg then publish his polls as unquestioned gospel?)

When one looks at the various tracking polls in the United States (see DailyKos), there is some consistency among them.  They may not agree numerically for whatever reasons, but their patterns and trends are consistent with each other.  They may say that John Kerry is leading anywhere from 0% to 6%, but none of them will say that he is trailing by 15%.  When those kinds of discrepancy show up in Venezuela, someone is going to take a bath professionally.

As for me, I would be a fool to say anything other than that I am clueless as to who is leading who according to the polling data.  I'll wait for the post-election post-mortem and watch some pollster shrivel away in ignominy.

(VHeadline.com)  June 27, 2004.

Opposition Democratic Coordinator (CD) leaders and representatives of the communications media met two days ago to analyze the results of surveys, particularly those of the Datos consulting firm, which give a comfortable victory to President Hugo Chavez in the recall referendum, according to a highly credible opposition source.

According to the Datos results, 51% say that Chavez should not be recalled, while 39% say he should.  This survey -- conducted at the opposition’s request -- is in the possession of CD leaders and media representatives, but the results will probably never be divulged.

The impact these results would have on the referendum, only a month and a half away, pressured the high opposition leadership to hold an “urgent meeting” Thursday, June 24, at Globovision headquarters.

Among those present were Enrique Mendoza, Juan Fernandez, Antonio Ledezma, Andres Velasquez, and Maria Corina Machado. Luis Miquilena, Julio Borges, and Alejandro Armas showed up later.  Media representatives at the meeting included the host, Alberto Federico Ravell (Globovision), Eladio Lares (RCTV), Carlos Croes (Televen), Victor Ferreres (Venevision), and Idania Chirinos (CMT).

Worry and confusion dominated the meeting, which lasted for several hours. The attendees were shocked by the contradiction between the Datanalisis survey results -- which had been widely published because they were favorable to the opposition -- and the most recent Datos results, which have also traditionally tended to favor the opposition. However, this time, the results reflected an insurmountable advantage for Chavez to remain in the Presidency.

Having the results explained to them made the opposition leaders uneasy, but the most dramatic thing, according to the source, is the fact that Datos gave Chavez a 10 point advantage, with “a tendency to increase,” that margin as the August 15 referendum draws near.

That provoked “profound uneasiness, arguments, and frustration” among the CD leaders, because as Gente del Petroleo president Juan Fernandez said, “our group is certain that Chavez will be removed from power, but we’re speaking of (the rest of) the country,” whose majority evidently doesn’t share the same confidence.

Then the leaders spoke of the government’s social missions, their impact, and the weight they will have on the results of the referendum, which they obviously believe will translate into support for the President.

(VHeadline.com)  June 27, 2004.

Venezolana de Television and Indaga report: If the presidential referendum were held today, President Hugo Chavez Frias would be ratified by a comfortable margin of 13%, according to a survey conducted by Indaga. “The trend confirms that the government is becoming more and more accepted by all sectors of the country, and (government acceptance) continues to increase,” said the report.

“We’re speaking of an electoral phenomenon that defies scientific prediction, and (Chavez) has arrived at his fourth year of government without suffering setbacks in his proposed projects.”

Last year, President Chavez experienced sustained growth in popularity, without any major ups and downs. Currently, the survey shows a clear upward spike to 55% approval, which indicates the determination of Venezuelans to continue forward with their Bolivarian leader.

It has been shown statistically that every government suffers a natural decline over time. In Venezuela, that paradigm has been broken, and the percentages used as a point of reference show a strong upward trend. The lines (of approval vs. disapproval) won’t cross again, and the lesson is clear: President Hugo Chavez Frias will arrive at the month of August with a solid advantage. 

(MercoPress)  Majority favour ousting Venezuela president Chavez.  June 29, 2004.

A majority of Venezuelans, 54% would vote to oust President Hugo Chavéz in the August 15 recall referendum, according to the latest opinion polls published over the weekend.

Mercanalisis confirmed the tendency of other opinion polls, with 54% against Mr. Chavez, 33% in favour of him remaining in office while 13% said they were still undecided. The official campaign for the referendum begins next July 15.

Metropolitan Caracas the country’s capital and where a significant portion of Venezuelan live is split in 50% and 35%, although 51% of those interviewed have a negative opinion of Chavez administration performance and 42% a positive one.

As to the recall referendum 85% said they would be voting and 12% will not go to the polls August 15.

The opinion poll involved 900 interviews in five of the country's main cities and was done between May 20 and June 5, after Venezuela autonomous electoral organization accepted the recall referendum.

(Venezuelanalysis.comNew Polls Show Venezuela's Chavez Winning Recall Referendum.  By Martin Sanchez.  June 2, 2004.

A June 23 poll conducted by Washington DC based polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., showed that 49% of Venezuela's registered voters would support President Chavez in the recall referendum vs. 44% who would vote to recall him.

Another Greenberg poll taken last March, gave Chavez only 43% support vs. 51% who opposed him, which shows an upward trend in favor of the 49-year old leftist leader.

The poll also determined that 54% of voters approve of Chavez's handling of the presidency, while 41% disapprove it. 42% said that the country is going in the right direction while 40% said the opposite. Only 47% approved of the President's job back in March, while 49% disapproved.

1.200 people were surveyed, with a margin of error of 3%.

According to a Reuters wire, the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey was held at the request of private television network Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), which openly opposes the government. RCTV has not made public the results of the poll. Greenberg acknowledges conducting the polls at the request of opposition groups by stating on its web site that they have "helped the opposition movement build domestic and international support for the referendum through a series of strategic surveys and focus groups".

The Greenberg survey found that the majority of voters support the government's social programs in favor of the poor. 58% said that Chavez's social programs or "missions" were "excellent" or "good", while 38% said they were "regular" or "bad". 68% said the social programs should be expanded or maintained.

62% said that Chavez is helping the poor, while 36% said he is not. Greenberg's March poll showed only 53% saying that Chavez is helping the poor, while 44% said he was not.

63% said they though the opposition would cheat during the recall, while 54% thought the government would cheat.

"It is clear that he is gaining ground," Michael Penfold, a political analyst the Venezuelan IESA school of business told Reuters.

(Venezuelanalysis.comVenezuela President Has 57% Support Ahead of Recall, New Poll Says.  By Martin Sanchez.  July 3, 2004.

Yet another opinion poll is predicting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would win the upcoming recall referendum on his rule to be held Aug 15th.

North American Opinion Research Inc announced yesterday in Caracas the results of a survey taken Jun 18-25, in which the South American leader obtained the support of 57% among registered voters, while 41% want to remove him. 2% remained undecided.

The polling company surveyed 2,612 registered voters in 24 states, concentrating in home interviews instead of phone calls and street encounters, according to company Operations Manager Carlos Sanchez, who made the announcement during a press conference on Friday July 2nd.

The survey also determined that President Chavez's party, Movimiento Quinta Republica (MVR - Fifth Republic Movement) has the widest acceptance among voters with 45%. Right-wing Primero Justicia (Justice First) came in second with 11% support, while the two oldest and former dominant parties Accion Democratica (AD) and COPEI, got 8 and 4 percent respectively. Twenty three percent of those surveyed claimed not to have any party preference.

When asked which political party they reject the most, 30% of those surveyed picked the MVR party, 26% choose AD, 8% COPEI, 6% Proyecto Venezuela, and 4% Primero Justicia. Twenty six percent remained undecided. AD, COPEI, Proyecto Venezuela, and Primero Justicia are opposition parties that are part of the anti-Chavez Coordinadora Democratica coalition.

An earlier poll taken by the same company on March of this year, gave Chavez only 46% of support which compared with the June findings shows an 11% increase in his acceptance.  Fifty one percent wanted to recall Chavez in the March poll.

The North American Opinion Research poll coincides with several other recent ones that also predict Chavez's victory in the recall referendum.

A June 23rd poll conducted by Washington DC based polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., showed that 49% of Venezuela's registered voters would support President Chavez in the recall referendum vs. 44% who would vote to recall him.

A mid-June poll by Venezuelan polling company INDAGA shows that 55% of voters would vote against recalling President Chavez in the upcoming referendum versus 42% who would recall him.

Another June poll by Venezuelan firm DATOS, gave Chavez 51% of support for the recall referendum, against 39% who would vote against him.

In contrast, a survey conducted May 10 and May 19 by Venezuelan firm Datanalisis, found that 57.4% would vote against Chavez vs. 42.6% who support him. Another poll by Venezuelan firm Mercanalisis taken between May 20 and Jun 5 in five main cities, found that 54% would recall Chavez, while 33% would keep him. Both firms have given unfavorable numbers to Chavez in the past. Four weeks before the 1998 elections, a Mercanalisis poll showed Chavez and his main opponent Enrique Salas Romer technically tied with 39% for Chavez and 38% for Salas. Chavez went on to win by 16%. Datanalisis also concluded two weeks before the election that Chavez and Salas were virtually tied with a 5% advantage in Chavez's favor.

The Venezuelan mainstream media, which largely opposes the President, has given little or no coverage to polls that favor Chavez.

Independently of their results, all polls show an upward trend favorable to Chavez, who has been accused by opponents of using extra revenue from higher oil prices to "buy votes" through the implementation of several social programs for the poor.

Government officials defend the social programs by saying the money invested there was previously enjoyed only by “the rich minority”. Opposition leaders have recently come out in support of the social programs promising to maintain them in an eventual post-Chavez government.

Government officials have said that although they are pleased with the results of the polls, they remain focused on efforts to win the referendum. “We have known about these favorable polls for a while, and have even better numbers when surveying at poor neighborhoods ignored by most polling companies, but we are not relaxing our efforts to obtain victory” said a Chavez campaign official who wanted to remain anonymous.

Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel called Chavez supporters to “organize to defend our victory out in the streets.”

Chavez's campaign organizers have implemented voter registration drives mostly in poor neighborhoods where Chavez has the most support. Pro-Chavez voting drives in upper-class neighborhoods have met with protests and attacks by opponents. The poor have the highest abstention rate of Venezuela's social classes. The government has also facilitated the issuing and renewal of national ID cards, a process that has been traditionally complicated and time consuming. The national picture ID card is required for voting.

In order for Chavez to be recalled, his opponents must get more than the 3.8 million votes Chavez received in the 2000 election. Additionally, the number of votes obtained by the opposition during the referendum must surpass those cast by Chavez supporters.

(Miami Herald)  Chávez's foes slow to form strategy.  By Frances Robles.  July 5, 2004.

Although Chávez's supporters say he is sure to win, various polls indicate the opposition could win 60 percent to 70 percent of the vote. But the polls also show Chávez's support slowly rising over the past months, an increase widely attributed to his social welfare spending.

''Chávez is getting a head start on his campaign,'' said Washington pollster Mark Feierstein. "Once the opposition campaign gets in gear . . . I think that's going to change.''

A June poll conducted by Feierstein's firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, for the anti-Chávez RCTV television station showed Chávez with a lead if 100 percent of the voters turn out, but a four-percentage-point loss among "likely voters.''

The poll was particularly significant because it was the first time a poll commissioned by the opposition showed Chávez possibly winning.

''The majority of Venezuelans know that with Chávez in power, a solution will not be had,'' said Juan Fernández, an opposition leader.

''We have to recognize he has a percentage of support,'' he said. "But we will also convince people: we are an option.'

(Narco News Bulletin)  Terms of Denouement for Venezuela Opposition.  By Al Giordano.  July 4, 2004.

With 41 days and 41 nights left before Venezuela’s August 15 referendum on the term of President Hugo Chávez Frias, a hard rain has begun to fall on Venezuela’s opposition.

It’s come from the place they least expected: their own pollsters.

Martin Sanchez at Venezuelanalysis analyzes the details.

He’s also got a chart of the six polls, each by a different company, released so far, four showing a clear Chávez victory, and two, by the largely discredited Venezuela opposition pollsters Datanalisis and Mercanalisis claiming the opposite.

The implausibility of the Datanalisis numbers (from May, before there was even a referendum question drafted) has been vetted here on The Narcosphere.

The most interesting numbers come from two opposition pollsters: Stan Greenberg whose client is RCTV, and Datos whose client is the Coordinadora Democratica, the chief opposition campaign coalition.

Greenberg poll:

Datos poll:

And those are both polls contracted by the opposition.

And here’s a chart of polls by the Indaga company, which has polled in Venezuela on Chávez’s favorability and unfavorability nine times since June 2002, showing a clear trend in Chávez’s favor: It has him winning the referendum today 55 percent to 42 percent.

Former New York Times correspondent and anti-Chávez blogger Francisco Toro – who went on his European vacation on June 13th just in time to avoid the heavy lifting in the campaign, thinking that his side had the referendum in the bag – returned to blogging today with the bad news for his troops:


“…the opposition’s nightmare scenario – Chavez wins a referendum fair and square – has gone from unimaginable to pretty likely in a matter of weeks… Looks bad, folks, looks very bad.”


According to multiple voices here on Narco News, it’s been the “pretty likely” scenario all along. How many stories and Narcosphere entries have we published saying this is exactly how a referendum would play out? Last October, we published Charlie Hardy’s “Participatory Democracy in Venezuela: The Opposition Doesn’t Really Want a Recall Referendum Because Chávez Remains Popular.” From that point on Chávez really outsmarted his opponents: he made them think that he didn’t want a referendum, and being so knee-jerk and reactionary, they decided that therefore they did! And they believed the bullshit fed them by their own discredited pollsters! The nightmare began in earnest when the Venezuelan National Elections Council gave the opposition what they had tricked themselves into believing they wanted. Chávez took to the airwaves and welcomed the referendum, enthusiastically.

The opposition – a lazy, soft, and upper caste directed lot which has lost seven national elections in six years – had planned on not getting the referendum and then to claim that their democratic will had somehow been blocked by a supposedly oppressive government. That has been, after all, the only play in their playbook since their anti-democracy efforts at military coups, media coups, and economic sabotage by the super rich against all Venezuelans had each failed in succession. First they submitted an inadequate number of legitimate signatures for the referendum, bolstered by more than a million bogus ones. The Venezuelan National Elections Council gave them a second chance – for three full days in late May – to “fix” their bogus signatures, and they squeaked by with enough.

When they “won” the placement of the referendum on the ballot, they immediately lost the war.

If anyone wants any explanation as to why Otto Reich left the Bush Administration last month, it can be found in the fact that he sees the writing on the wall: his crusade to destroy Venezuelan democracy has lost. It’s over. All that’s left, 41 days from now, is the voting to make it official. That’s why Reich left. They already have their own internal polling data up there in Washington about what’s happening in Venezuela. They already know how it’s going down.

The first open realizations of despair came two weeks ago from opposition columnist Gustavo Coronel. (Read my June 18 analysis here.) He actually sat down with a pencil and paper and did the math. His colleagues told him, no, not to worry, look at the polls. And all the faith of these rookies-playing-pretend-democracy went into their own side’s bogus polls.

Now yet another poll has come out, from North American Opinion Research, giving Chávez 57 percent to the opposition’s 41 percent.

Former New York Timesman Francisco Toro, on his blog today grudgingly admitted the legitimacy of the opposition poll by former Bill Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg showing a 49 to 44 percent Chávez victory, but based on a single Google search claimed that the North American Opinion Research poll was bogus.

Toro doesn’t understand polling very well.

If he would simply do what former political pollsters like me do, and take the seven percent undecided in the Greenberg poll and put it aside, the Greenberg numbers would be 53 percent to 47 percent… Do the same with the two percent “undecided” registered by the North American Opinion Research poll and you get 58 to 42 percent…

That’s within the generally accepted five point margin of error between any two similar polls. It’s also consistent with the results of Datos. Without undecideds, that opposition poll would be 57 to 43, just a percentage point away on each end from the North American Opinion Research numbers, and within the margin of error for each of the aforementioned polls. In other words, each of the four legitimate polls, two from the opposition, two from other media organizations, back each other up.

It’s pretty damn clear: a combination of opposition polls and non-opposition polls are all lining up, 41 days before the vote, showing (if the small undecided vote is considered to either stay home or break more or less the same way) Chávez with between 53 and 58 percent of the vote, and the opposition with between 42 and 47 percent of the vote. And all the tracking polls show the momentum to be on Chávez’s side.

Happy Independence Day, July 4th, the day the country of my own passport celebrates its own revolutionary movement toward democracy… a revolution that obviously is not yet over because democracy is not a bunch of declarations on a piece of parchment, but a living, breathing, process that must be asserted and reasserted with every breath of that life.

That’s the most universal truth about authentic democracy that the Venezuelan opposition doesn’t seem to understand. That’s what Chávez and his supporters seem very much to understand, and they’re the wedge through which Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and other lands are now kicking through to the same high ground. Democracy doesn’t exist unless we make it, over and over again, every single day. On the day we don’t wake up and do it – just as Francisco Toro on his Italian camping trip, now coming to terms of denouement with what he thought “unimaginable” three weeks ago – is the day we cede it to those who do wake up and do it and fight for democracy with all. And the side with more people that do wake up and do it, in every fair fight, wins against the side with fewer willing to make the sacrifice. That’s democracy. It’s beautiful when it happens, isn’t it?

(Venezuela News & Views)


Sunday 4, July 2004 (1)

What might have been the main news this week in Caracas was the publication of the partial results of the Greenberg et al. poll, that came flat out to contradict earlier polls from Datanalisis and Consultores 21. Of course this provoked some consternation within the opposition and felicity in chavismo. But was that significant? My answer is no, I am not worried at all and I will explain why at the end.

Chavez and pollsters

Like any government in trouble, the Chavez administration is discrediting any polling organization that does not publish favorable results. Par for the course, even though Datanalisis and Consultores 21 predicted very accurately Chavez victory in 1998. If we had to this that we have an administration that has long stopped accounting for its actions, that runs on emotional arguments, and a president that excoriates the local press and has not given a press conference in 2 years, one should not be surprised at the virulence presented by some notorious chavistas as to adverse polling results. (2)

The pollsters in Venezuela

There are many polling institutes in Venezuela, from the long established ones to hacks that appear at election time. There also the foreign pollsters, serious or not, that are hired on occasion. The recent example that occupies the attention of today's post is the one from Greenberg and associates from the US, that goes against the grain of local recent polls. Unfortunately, this poll complete results and methodology have not been released yet.

The polling difficulties in Venezuela

Polling in Venezuela is rather difficult. The neat split into 5 social sectors actually illustrates quite well the problem. Sectors A, B and C represent the rich, upper middle class and middle class. D and E represent workers and poor. Or so it was in the 80ies when the system was set. But now with nearly 20% official jobless rate and perhaps 50% in the informal economy these divisions are becoming meaningless. Sector A is statistically nonexistent and more and more A and B are considered as one. E, the pauper sector includes probably quite a large number of people near indigent status. In addition the E sector resides in the extensive Caracas and other cities slums and includes those that traditionally have been unwilling or unable to follow the political discourse of the country. The difficulty to poll in a meaningful way this sector should be obvious. The D sector includes more and more the fraction of the C sector that lost its economic stability but not necessarily its values and political motivations. The social changes that have happened in Venezuela in the last 10 years should bring into question some of the polling methods used in the past. Not to mention that recent political pressure could affect even further how people tend to reply to pollster questions. (3)

Recent polls

This is a little survey of recent polls and comments (4)
Datanalisis 57.4 42.6 Well established Venezuelan Pollsters. Have been describing a tightening of the race but still give the greater advantage to the opposition. They regularly poll the Venezuelan situation.
Consultores 21 65.8 32.7
Mercanalisis 48-63 21-36 Asks what people think will happen, not what they will vote. Divided by regions. Also a long established poll firm.
Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research 44 49 A reputed US polling firm hired on occasion. Has rather suddenly and largely reversed its general trend. Until 2 months ago it gave a large advantage to the opposition. All data and method not released yet
Datos 35 51 No web info, no methodology, except for a Venpres report
Indaga and North American Opinion research 42 55 Indaga is a recent creation from a faculty at the University of Zulia. Both are hired by the current administration. No information available on the other company though there is an extensive discussion on Venezuelanalysis, without giving information on NOAR (5)

The least that one can say on these polls, done relatively close in time, is that there is quite a variation. If the results of Indaga and Datos are to be expected, the ones from Greenberg are surprising. These are a considerable reversal of the type of numbers that they used to show. What is more worrisome is that as of today the method has not been published so one cannot decide as to the validity of these numbers. Certainly if they are right today one would wonder about the previous Greenberg surveys when the opposition had much more favorable numbers. Why such a sudden change in such a short period of time? In particular when the "traditional" Venezuelan pollsters agree on the opposition advance even if all agree that this one has shrunk some in recent weeks.

My take

Behavior of the Venezuelan electorate

As Val pointed recently, or Alek Boyd, we are victims of 50 years of populist administrations. A large fraction of the electorate is driven by what they are expecting to get, directly, from whomever is in office, or wants to get into office. This is our curse, perhaps 70% of the electorate motivated by "what is in there for me?", materialistically speaking.

Another often lobbed criticism to the Venezuelan electorate is its short term memory. Indeed, we have reelected in 1988 the president that started corruption big time in Venezuela, Carlos Andres Perez. We have reelected in 1993 the president that has lusted more for power, that has been more willing to make any deal to stay in office, one of them being the "sharing" of the judicial power, Rafael Caldera.

The arguments of the opposition

Well, they are as valid today as they were in April, even more so when one is watching with a certain impotence while the High Court is being packed, or how the oil revenue is spent without any accounting, likely in individual pockets. However there is one that might be backfiring, provisionally, for the opposition: Chavez the dictator. By accepting to go for a Recall Election in spite of all the tricks used to block the signature gathering process, a few in Venezuela wonder if the opposition was not exaggerating all along. It was not, all the other symptoms of an authoritarian wanna-be are there. But people tend to forget and that has saved more than one politician in Venezuela.

The other thing is that the opposition will have a tough job to go against some popular social programs, the ones from the "misiones". Amazingly this time Chavez has managed to strike a chord in the electorate, even if the programs do not reach as many as he would like us to believe, even if they are a den of corruption, even if they are funded at the expense of existing programs and institutions. In fact the present programs have helped erase the memory of previous failures of the social agenda such a the "Plan Bolivar 2000" who ended up enriching a few generals. Indeed, why should Juan Bimba, our Joe Sixpack, care about the packing of the High Court when he might be on the verge of getting a direct hand out? After all justice never reached him but 100 dollars would come in handy.

The opposition dilemma is to expose the cheapness and inadequacy of the present "misiones" while at the same time stating that they will strengthen them, thus indirectly validating them.

So, what are the numbers?

Well, I still think that my detailed table of a few days ago is still valid. I would just add that Chavez has been able to add, albeit temporarily, the few points that are up for grab. He benefits from the positive effect of gaining back some democratic shade, of playing nice, from the "misiones" where he is pouring money while accusing the opposition to threaten to take them away. He also benefits from the down time of the opposition, enjoying his May success and gearing up for totally new type of campaign. Chavez had started his campaign even before the signatures were in and that helps in polls. The reader will remember that I have always given Chavez at least a 30% hard core vote, and if he reaches today a 35-40 % that would give him, a slight edge over the opposition once abstention is factored in.

But this week end is the official start of the campaign. Let's see what happens in the polls after 5 weeks of reminding people the failures of Chavez and why they had to go and sign up. Let's see what happens when Chavez blows up again and starts abusing "cadenas" again.

And in case the reader still doubts, why would a government that genuinely thing that it will win dismiss polls, hire hack pollsters, pack the High Court, set up all sort of electoral tricks, distribute shoddy ID to register questionable voters, suddenly reverse a whole series of policies to try to gain back a sector of the middle class (defense of private property against squatters, new business credits, etc...), and more? Is this is the winner spirit may heaven protect us from the loser spirit!


(1) I did come across some additional information and edited this post slightly today, July 5, instead of writing an additional one. The information that I found change in nothing my conclusions, but it should be reported so as to provide all the information the readers of this blog need to make up her/his mind.

(2) Since 2001 Chavez has basically stopped giving real press interviews or real press conferences in Venezuela. He only gives them to foreign media and on occasion a tidbit to a particular Venezuelan journalist or a declaration between two doors when he is caught by a journalist. Basically the only messages that the country gets from its president are the "cadenas" and "Alo Presidente" where he rants at will with no one able to question him or even ask for more details.

(3) Thanks to Steven for pointing to me through Haloscan that sanctioning those who signed could have become quite a factor in the results of polling questionnaires. Pollsters might have ways to go around this problem, but I personally think that they have not quite solved this.

(4) Numbers from El Nacional Sunday edition (courtesy of Jose Mora Blog for those who want to read the whole article in Spanish) or from El Universal through the week. Pollsters do not publish numbers in general as these are property of their clients. The comments are mine.

(5) Venezuelanalysis rushes in with a second article to take advantage of these recent polls. Some of the data I publish here is put in nice graphs there. However, interestingly they do not elaborate much on the regional poll of Mercanalisis, which is probably the most solid of the whole lot! Oh well...

(Bloomberg)  Venezuela's Chavez Gains in Poll Ahead of August Vote.  July 7, 2004.

Among registered voters, 54.5 percent want to recall Chavez compared with 65.8 percent in March, according to a poll released today by Consultores 21. Of the 1,500 voters surveyed in the June poll, 41.3 percent said they want Chavez to remain in office, up from 27.7 percent in March. A separate poll published last week by Washington-based Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. also showed increased support for Chavez.

Chavez, 49, is gaining favor among voters after he doubled spending in the first four months on social programs, helping the economy rebound from its biggest contraction on record last year. State-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA said last month it would spend $1.7 billion on programs such as housing and roads and set aside as much as $2 billion for a development fund.

"Chavez is running a brilliant campaign and the opposition hasn't gotten its act together yet,'' said Robert Bottome, an analyst with research company Veneconomy in Caracas. "I expect a close vote.''

Consultores 21, based in Caracas, conducts a poll measuring Chavez's popularity every three months and sells it to the owners of seven private companies, Nicolas Toledo, an analyst with Consultores 21, said. He wouldn't name the companies.

(Vheadline.com)  Eleazar Diaz Rangel: Success and failure of the public opinion surveys.  July 15, 2004.

There is no inventory in Venezuela of the companies or institutions that specialize in measuring public opinion. Not even from the yellow pages is it possible to get an approximate idea of the number of polling firms that periodically or circumstantially conduct these assessments, which usually proliferate during times of elections, and increase even more during regional elections.

The situation becomes more complicated because there is no mechanism controlling the quality of the assessments, so this leaves room for a proliferation of both serious and fraudulent polls. Sometimes it is not easy to differentiate one from the other.

The CSE, and later the CNE, considered regulations that would allow for some type of control, but those efforts were frustrated.

I wrote on several occasions about that particular problem; sometimes for Elite, sometimes for El Mundo: “It is not possible in these times that polls always offer such contradictory results that confuse voters,” and in 1998 I offered examples of Salas Romer advertisements containing polls from Datanalisis and Mercanalisis that put him close to Chavez, and ads from Chavez containing polls that showed him as having an ample lead over his contender. The results from both ads could not have been true, as was evidenced in the elections.

There are universal rules from the World Association for Public Opinion Research (Wapor) and its European and American counterparts, that, if applied here, they would put in doubt many of the local polling firms, and people would not taken in as easily.

I am not exaggerating when I say that since 1954, when Datos was founded, more than a hundred companies dedicated to public opinion research have operated in Venezuela. Many appear and disappear in less than a year; they don’t have any financial registry, nor are they in the phone books. I will offer you some examples of the inconsistency of surveys:

When Copei’s candidacies were about to be defined in 1987, the aspiring candidates hired their respective polling firms, which gave the results that each one wanted. Issue proclaimed Eduardo Fernandez as winner by 41%, with Rafael Caldera receiving 33%, while Gaither polling firm said just the opposite, Caldera 49%, Fernandez 30%.

During the elections of 1988, Perez won with 54.6% against 41.7% obtained by Fernandez. What had the polling firms predicted?

Almost all of them predicted Perez as the winner, but some were quite far from reality. Issue had seen a difference of barely 7% (700,000 votes) favoring CAP, but Gallup elevated this number to 25% (2,500,000 votes!!!). Mercanalisis was the only one that predicted correctly (54% to 40%), but it failed on its measures about parties: AD was supposed to obtain 26%, but it received 44%, Copei 17%, and it obtained 31.4%, and MAS 18%, when in reality it reached 10%. During those months, I wrote several times in Elite about the issue, among them the analysis “The disrepute of polls” (5-17-88) and the commentary “Lousy polls” (12-6-88).

Let’s see what happened with the polls in 1993. With percentages that fluctuated between 30% and 38%, the majority of surveys saw Caldera as winner (he obtained 30.46%), and they relegated Claudio Fermin to last place, obtaining between 6% and 11%. They were all wrong because Claudio obtained 23.60%, putting him in second place. I took the opportunity to comment upon this, and none of the firms wanted to explain their failure.

“They are worthless,” said Salas Romer about polls in September of 1997. Consultores 21 had demoted him from 10 to 6%, and since Mercanalisis had upgraded his place from 4 to 13% (November 1997), I wrote (December 15, 1997): “This is not supposed to be one of those worthless polls, this must have cost some big bucks.”

At the Electricidad de Caracas auditorium, on December 2, 1998, dozens of investors who were funding the polls gathered to hear the results. Fernandez Nays in El Universal tells about how the speakers at the event looked “as uncertain as any regular voter, and with no hesitation they dared to say that they didn’t have the remotest idea who would win the election”. I bet you can’t guess who the speakers were. Antonio Gil Yépez and Luis Vicente León, of Datánalisis, who, barely five days before the election, did not even suspect that Chavez would win by a million votes.

The regional elections of 1998 were also a scenario for failure. Let’s see: Datanalisis and Mercanalisis proclaimed Rosales as winner (51 to 39%) in Zulia (Arias won). Datanalisis predicted Rosales Pena (52% ) in Barinas over Chavez (33% ); and they were even wrong in the predictions that they had gotten right: Consultores 21 gave 59% to Mendoza and 21.6% to Gruber, yet the results were 46% to 29%; Mercanalisis declared Fucho Tovar 59% over Eddy Medina 23%, but the results were 45% to 42%.

In 2000, most firms offered results where Chavez defeated Arias Cardenas, but I want to highlight some differences. In April-May, while Consultores 21, Datanalisis and Ivad gave more than 50% to Chavez and between 28 and 33% to Arias in the metro area, where the Chavista force is stronger, Mercanalisis gave Chavez 48% and 46% to Arias. So-so.

CTV elections were held at the end of 2001. “Eugenio School Studies and Organization” (“Estudios y Organización Eugenio Escuela”) went to the streets to measure preferences. Do you know who took the lead? Pablo Medina with 20.75%, while Carlos Ortega was eighth with barely 4.12%.

In June of 2004, Consultores 21 gave 18% to Borges and 20% to Salas Romer; at Datos, it was 22 and 26% respectively; while Mercanalisis threw them down at the bottom at 9 and 8%, although it coincided with the other firms on 20-22% for Mendoza. If 12 million people constitute the electorate, 10% constitutes 1,200,000 electors. This would mean that, according to Mercanalisis, the estimate is that Salas Romer would obtain around 900,000 votes, while C21 gives him 2,400,000 votes, and Datos, 3,110,000 respectively. The same occurs with Borges. He has 9% according to Mercanalisis, 22% according to Datos and 18% according to C21. Which is telling the truth?

An almost impossible investigation would allow us to conclude that in the thousands of results offered between 1968 and 2001 by hundreds of national and regional polling firms, most of the results have been failures. Since we put them all in the same bag, we don’t know how to separate those that are wrong because of lax methodology, and those that simply fabricate their results in laboratories in order to be used by some candidate or party for pay. This situation will continue until the media becomes more demanding at the time of broadcasting results and some sort of quality control is established.

(Venezuelanalsyis.com)  New Poll Finds that Venezuela's Chavez Would Win Recall by up to 10%.  July 27, 2004.

A new poll of Venezuelan voters finds that, if the election were held today, the recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez would fail.

The survey shows the referendum losing by eight percentage points, with forty one percent (41%) of all voters in favor of recalling President Chavez and forty nine percent (49%) opposed to recalling the President.

Among likely voters -- those who tell interviewers that they are certain to vote -- the prospects for recall proponents are even worse, with forty three percent (43%) favoring the recall and fifty one percent (51%) opposing it. Even if the pro-recall base turned out ten percent higher than the anti-recall base, the no vote would still prevail with fifty one percent (51%) of the vote.

These results are strikingly consistent with the less comprehensive survey conducted by Greenberg for RCTV and leaked to the media last month, giving Chavez 49% vs 44% to the opposition.

The new poll was conducted for PDV Holding, a US affiliate of the Venezuelan state oil firm, PDVSA, by U.S. opinion research firm Evans McDonough Company (EMC) and Venezuelan firm Varianzas Opinion. The independent survey was done of 2,000 Venezuela voters from July 16 – 22, 2004. All interviews were conducted in homes by trained Venezuelan interviewers and the error margin for the poll is plus or minus 2.2 percent.

The poll shows that the underlying dynamics in the current referendum do not look fundamentally different than those at play in President Hugo Chavez’s earlier electoral victories:

The Evans McDonough Company concludes that unless there is a sea change in the opinion of poor and working class Venezuelans towards President Chavez or, lacking that, a decrease in turnout of truly historic proportions (in which case it may be difficult for recall proponents to achieve the necessary 3.76 million vote threshold even if they win a majority of votes cast), prospects for a successful vote to recall President Chavez appear dim. 

(Miami Herald)  Capture Chávez in ballot box.  By Carlos Alberto Montaner.  July 27, 2004.

The Venezuelan opposition should win the recall referendum, even though President Hugo Chávez is attempting to buy a victory by pouring billions of bolívares into voters' pockets. That's what emerges from most of the surveys conducted three weeks before the voting.

That's also what common sense indicates. Chávez has been in power for more than five years, during which he has shown himself to be a picturesque charlatan with a ''garbage dump in the head,'' as Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes put it. Though he can sell a barrel of oil for $40, he has become the worst Venezuelan president since dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who was overthrown in 1958.

The most interesting survey of all was done by Mercanálisis. It is long, but there are two key questions that point to Chávez's removal: When Venezuelans are asked if they see the nation's future in a negative light, 54 percent of them say Yes.

At the other end, those who believe that the future will be positive account for only 35 percent of the registered voters. Thus, when asked to predict the referendum's result, 54 percent opine that Chávez will be expelled from the presidency, while 33 percent say that he will be ratified.

Political affiliations play a role in Venezuelans' perception of their personal destiny. A sizable majority of Venezuelans believe their lot will worsen if Chávez continues in power. Many from that sector -- 41 percent -- believe Chávez is a communist or a fascist, but the debate is not only ideological. Their greatest concern is the high unemployment rate, added to a melancholy conviction that Chávez is incapable of reducing it.

Naturally, to defeat Chávez is not just a question of coming up with more votes. They have to come up with a lot more, because Chavismo is not a political party convinced of the virtues of democracy. It is a revolutionary faction that resorts to the polls because it lacked a violent road to reach power or was unable to hang on to it by force of arms.

If the oppositionists' victory is narrow, Chavismo will resort to all kinds of skulduggery and tricks to deny them that victory. To do that, it will count on the complicity of the National Electoral Council, which in the next-to-latest balloting had the impudence to arbitrarily annul hundreds of thousands of valid votes.

(VHeadline.com)  President Hugo Chavez with 25 point lead going into the August 15 referendum.  July 31, 2004.

With 60% in favor of the “No” option and 35% voting against him, President Hugo Chavez Frias would win the August 15 referendum, according to a poll conducted by the US company North American Opinion Research (NAOR).

The poll was conducted between July 15 and July 25. Based on the National Elections Council’s voter rolls of 14,053,544 voters, “No” would receive 8,094,841 votes, and “Yes” would get 4,721,990 votes, a difference of 3,372,851 votes. The abstention rate was 4%.  NAOR director of operations in Venezuela, Carlos Sanchez, notes that the margin of error is 3.8%. NAOR has also conducted surveys in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Voter acceptance of political parties was measured, with the pro-Chavez MVR receiving 50% support, and opposition parties Primero Justicia with 17%, Accion Democratica 8%, Proyecto Venezuela 6%, and COPEI 4%.

President Chavez’ leadership has been steadily rising in the polls, and he now has the support of 58%, with opposition leaders Enrique Mendoza receiving 15%, Henrique Salas Romer 9%, Julio Borges 5%, and Juan Fernandez 3%.

2,612 men and women over the age of 18 at all economic levels were surveyed in their homes for this study . Sanchez notes that no people were surveyed in the street or by telephone.

The “No” option won in all states except for Carabobo, where “Yes” won 51% to 43%. In Miranda, both options were tied at 49%.  The most overwhelming margins for Chavez were in Guarico with 76% for “No” to 22% for “Yes”; Barinas 70% to 16%; Aragua 73% to 24%; Portuguesa 68% to 27%; and Bolivar 68% to 32%.  The survey shows the growth of the “No” option in such opposition bastions as Zulia, where it measured 49% support in May, 50% in June, and 66% in July.

The people are showing a much greater intent to vote, with 96% saying they will participate. This is attributed to the National Elections Council’s voter’s registration campaign, ONIDEX’ program to issue ID cards, and the eagerness to vote that Venezuelans have always shown.

The next NAOR survey will be conducted August 1-5, and the results will be released at an August 7 press conference.

(Venezuelanalysis.comThree new Polls Show Venezuela's Chavez Winning Recall by 11% to 25%.  By Martin Sanchez.  July 30, 2004.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's chances of finishing his term seem to have solidified as three newly released polls gave him a 10 to 25 percent lead over the opposition two weeks before a recall referendum.

The leftist populist leader remains Venezuela's most popular political figure as 58% of registered voters would vote for him in a presidential election, according to one of the polls presented today.

Keller y Asociados: 45% vs 34%

A survey released today and conducted June 14 - July 1st by local pollster Keller y Asociados, found that 45% would vote against recalling President Chavez, 34% would vote for the President's recall, while 21% remain undecided.

Company president Alfredo Keller told local newspaper El Nacional that given the high number of undecided that his poll shows, the opposition must focus on convincing the neutrals who dislike the President, in order to have a chance at recalling him. Those undecided tend to favor the opposition 3 to 1, according to Keller.

Keller y Asociados surveyed 1,633 people in 113 cities, with a margin of error of +/-2.8%. Keller is perceived by many to be a pro-opposition firm.

Consultora Hinterlaces: 51% vs 40%

According to local newspaper El Universal, another survey released today by local polling firm Consultora Hinterlaces gives 51% for the "NO" option (against recalling Chavez), and 40% to the "YES" option (in favor of the recall).

The Consultora Hinterlaces poll was conducted between July 3rd and July 18, surveying 1500 registered voters in Venezuela's 10 major cities, through interviews and focus groups.

The survey also found that 37% of registered voters consider themselves pro-Chavez, 16% oppositionists, and 47% of neither tendency. Among those with no political preference, the study found that 32% would vote in favor of Chavez, while 53% would vote against him, and 14% remained undecided or did not answer.

51% of those surveyed said they trust the National Electoral Council, 21% expressed some trust, while 13% did not trust the institution.

The Consultora Hinterlaces poll also found that the government approval ratings stands at 54%, with 41% rejection and 5% with no opinion. Hugo Chavez has been the President of Venezuela for five and a half years.

According to El Universal, the poll was comissioned by a transnational corporation.

North American Opinion Research: 60% vs. 35%

Yet another poll released today, this time by North American Opinion Research (NAOR), gave Chavez a 25% lead over the opposition. The company found that 60% of registered likely voters said that they would vote against the recall of Chavez, while 35% said they would vote “yes”, in favor of the recall, and 5% had not yet made up their minds.

The Delaware based polling firm conducted in-home interviews with 2,612 Venezuelans from July 15 to 25 in all areas of the country. The poll was commissioned by transnational companies and embassies, according to Carlos Sanchez, the NOAR representative in Venezuela who presented the poll results during a press conference today. When asked exactly which companies and embassies commissioned the poll, he declined to give their names because the clients did not want their names revealed. According to Sanchez, NOAR has been polling in Venezuela since 1997.

The NOAR poll further says that abstention will be its lowest ever in Venezuelan history, with 95% of registered voters participating.

In terms of personal popularity, President Chavez remains the country’s most popular politician, with 58% saying that they would vote for him, should there be a presidential election. The next closest politician is the opposition leader Enrique Mendoza, with 15% saying they would vote for him.

Similarly, political party preference reaches 50% in favor of Chavez’ party, the MVR (Fifth Republic Movement/Movimiento Quinta República). The next most popular party, is the conservative new-comer party Primero Justicia, which would receive 17% of the vote in regional elections.

(Vheadline.com)  El Universal caught with its pants down – again! Publishes bogus poll saying President Hugo Chavez Frias will lose the referendum.  By Philip Stinard.  August 5, 2004.

El Universal’s Alfredo Rojas reports: A recent poll by Felix Seijas’ company warns in its report that “there is a high predisposition to exercise the right to vote, and evidence indicates that Chavez will lose the presidency.” But, the report says that “however, there is an equal number of voters who define themselves as pro and anti-Chavez, and the undecided are the ones can who move the balance of power.

The study’s sample size was 1,200, with the people interviewed directly in their homes, covering the entire country geographically. The poll was conducted between July 14 and July 24. The economic status of the sample is: 46% in groups ABC (middle and upper classes), and 54% in DE (lower classes). The report doesn’t specify the electoral status of the interviewees (i. e. whether they are registered to vote).

The report reveals a 50% intention to vote “Yes” and 44% for “No” in the presidential recall referendum, based on the CNE ballot question, and 6% say they don’t know, or didn’t respond.

“Of the three scenarios established, there is one in which the President remains in power. Therefore, if these trends continue, the results will depend on the government’s and opposition’s strategies,” says the report.

The poll estimates that 83% of the people interviewed exhibit “a high level of motivation” to vote on August 15, with a “marked tendency in the ABC economic sectors” and “the level of abstention will be relatively low in this process.”

El Universal, through the email account of its Editor-in-Chief Elides J. Rojas L., received a communication signed by Alfredo Sosa, who sent the investigative report, supposedly from Felix Seijas.

Felix Seijas, in direct conversation, said that he cannot deny the content of the survey, because he doesn’t know about it. He categorically declares that his company didn’t conduct the survey, nor did it publish the survey that El Universal printed in its Wednesday, August 4, 2004 edition.

El Universal clarifies that this survey does physically exist - it’s not an invention, although its author is not Felix Seijas.

As proof, we’re placing all of the survey pages on El Universal’s web page, including the aforementioned email.

-----Original message-----

Sent: Monday, August 2, 2004 22:30
From: Alfredo Sosa
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: Seijas poll
Priority: Low

Subject: Seijas poll

Study of the Presidential Referendum Process

General results of the Investigation

Confidence in the Computerization Process

Attitudes towards the Presidential Recall Referendum

Voters’ intentions in the Presidential Recall Referendum

Important: I thank you for your discretion in this case. It’s only for people of confidence, and if you forward it, please eliminate my email address. Thanks.


The Seijas poll is somewhat optimistic … Maybe it underestimates the proportion of classes D and E.

(See attached file: Cifras2.ppt)

Upon examining the PowerPoint presentation published by El Universal on its web page, one can observe (using the “Properties” menu option) that the author of the presentation is Roberto Abdul-Hadi Casanova (with email address rabdul@telcel.net.ve). Abdul-Hadi Casanova is the director of the controversial US-funded opposition group Sumate.

Although Abdul-Hadi Casanova’s name is associated with the file, it’s easy to forge this information, either by the person who emailed the poll, or by El Universal itself. However, it’s puzzling why El Universal would post these poll results containing such incriminating information.

Sumate, the opposition organization whose goal is to revoke President Hugo Chavez’ mandate, is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization dependent upon the US government for its funds. Its leaders are currently under investigation by the Venezuelan justice system.

(Bloomberg)  Venezuela's Universal Published Bogus Poll by Chavez Opponents.  August 5, 2005.

El Universal, Venezuela's largest national newspaper by circulation, said it mistakenly published a bogus poll provided by opponents of President Hugo Chavez that purported to show the leader would lose an Aug. 15 recall vote.

El Universal said in a front page notice that it received the poll from a person who claimed the tally had been compiled by Felix Seijas from polling firm Instituto Venezolano de Analisis de Datos. The poll showed that 50 percent of the respondents would vote to recall Chavez, compared with 44 percent who would vote for him to stay in office.

"We made a mistake,'' Editor Elides Rojas said in an interview. "We usually don't call pollsters to verify surveys that are sent to us.'' Rojas said the poll was formulated by a university and sent to him by "sympathizers'' of the country's opposition.

El Universal will publish a complete explanation tomorrow, he said. Other polls show a close race for the recall. Seijas was quoted in another article in El Universal as saying his firm, Instituto Venezolano, doesn't do polls for newspapers.

(El Universal)  

El consultor Félix Seijas aclaró ayer que la encuesta atribuida a su firma, cuyo informe circuló el martes y fue remitido engañosamente por correo electrónico al jefe de redacción de El Universal, Elides Rojas, y publicado en la edición del miércoles, "no es de Félix Seijas ni de la empresa Instituto Venezolano de Análisis de Datos".

"Yo considero que esto entra en la misma guerra de las encuestas, y muchos somos víctimas. El Universal fue víctima y yo también porque mucha gente a la que yo le trabajo privadamente se preocupa. Yo no trabajo para los medios", apuntó, y destacó que su empresa "es un laboratorio prácticamente universitario".

"Han utilizado exactamente el día menos apropiado y qué lástima por quien haya hecho esto, porque de pronto quien mandó eso es una persona muy seria y ha sido engañado también, porque eso funciona como una cadena. Lo importante es que a esa persona, que seguramente me conoce, hay que decirle que Seijas no hizo ese trabajo", insistió.

(El Universal)  

El ministro de Comunicación e Información, y encargado de la Estrategia comunicacional del Comando Maisanta, Jesse Chacón, cuestionó que El Universal divulgó en su edición de ayer miércoles una encuesta asignada falsificadamente a la conocida firma de Félix Seijas, y resaltó que "es simplemente un trabajo hecho en algún laboratorio de la Coordinadora Democrática y le pusieron el sello de Seijas a través de El Universal".

Denunció que El Universal "descaradamente utiliza su periódico como herramienta de propaganda política", y contrastó que "todas las encuestas serias del país, incluyendo la de Seijas, le dan al Presidente más de 10 puntos de ventaja llegando en algunos casos a 35 _esa es la realidad".

Aseguró que el estudio en cuestión "no se lo dio el señor Seijas", y se apoyó en datos que advirtió que sí corresponden a esta consultora.

"Nosotros hemos venido haciendo una evaluación de los avances semanales a los que hemos tenido acceso, y en la encuesta de la semana del 16 de julio votarían por el No el 46%, por el Sí el 35% y No sabe/No responde 19%; en la semana del 21 de julio votarían por el No el 46%, por el Sí 35% y No sabe/No responde 19%; y la última de la semana del 26 de julio aumentó el No _votarían por el No 48%, bajó el Sí _votarían 33% y No sabe/No responde 19%", indicó.

"El Universal nuevamente le ha mentido a sus lectores como lo ha hecho en muchas ocasiones", acusó.

"El espacio de crecimiento real de la oposición es el 30% _llegaron a su techo y de ahí no van a subir más. Ahora vamos a ver a algunos medios de comunicación social sacando encuestas fantasmas y números que no existen", presumió.

"Todos sabemos qué va a pasar el 15A. Todas las encuestas lo dicen y todas contratadas por la oposición", agregó, y previno que "se van a utilizar los medios como herramienta para generar una matriz de opinión inexistente".

"La verdad la tienen ellos y nosotros. El Presidente tiene una diferencia hoy por encima de 15 puntos con respecto a la opción del Sí, que estadística y técnicamente son irreversibles en una o dos semanas".

Por otro lado, comentó que tras la revelación del rector del CNE, Jorge Rodríguez, de fraude en la recolección de firmas de la solicitud del revocatorio "se hace indispensable que Venezuela cuente con un mecanismo que evite que los delincuentes electorales participen en el proceso".

"Estamos hablando de personas que durante este proceso de recolección de firmas, aparece su huella dactilar en 35 ocasiones con nombre y cédula distintas. Nosotros sí creemos en las máquinas cazahuella _y ahora creemos más. Y ya sabemos porque la Coordinadora dizque democrática no quiere por ningún motivo que exista esta máquina".

También se refirió a la convocatoria oficialista para el 8 de agosto, y prometió "abarrotar la avenida Bolívar".

"Retamos al señor de la gorrita pa'tras, al de Carabobo, al de Yaracuy, a Pompeyo Márquez, a que el sábado llenen si quiera la mitad de la Bolívar, a que nos midamos en democracia, o a que abarroten la autopista. Estoy seguro que no lo van a hacer porque no mueven a nadie _es la verdad. Se meterán en una callecita y con la ayuda de los medios sacarán unas imágenes", señaló.

(Vheadline.com)  Final North American Opinion Research polls shows “No” winning with 63%.  By Philip Stinard.  August 7, 2004.

VENPRES’ Carolina Perez reports: Just one week before the presidential referendum, the option to retain President Hugo Chavez Frias continues to dominate. The final poll conducted by North American Opinion Research (NAOR) shows “No” receiving 63% support while “Yes” gets just 32%.

NAOR’s Venezuelan head of operations Carlos Sanchez says that these results are from the final survey conducted from August 1 to August 5 in 20 states, with a sample size of 1,200 interviewed exclusively in their homes.

93% of the people surveyed have already made up their minds how they will vote in the August 15 presidential referendum, while 7% remain undecided. 96% say they will definitely vote, while 4% will abstain.

Calculations based on the 14,245,615 registered voters indicate that 13,675,790 will vote. 8,615,747 will vote “No,” and 4,376,252 will vote “Yes,” giving an advantage of 4,239,495 to the “No” option.

The states that are most inclined to vote “No” are Vargas and Guarico with 75%, while the only state that would vote “Yes” is Carabobo, with 50%.

When asked about leadership, the respondents expressed 59% approval of Chavez, while Enrique Mendoza received a scant 14%, Enrique Salas Romer 9%, Julio Borges 5%, and Juan Fernandez 3%.   Sanchez says that the poll has a 3.5% margin of error.

“Polls must not exceed a 7% margin of error. The error in this kind of poll is relatively low. Home interviews have greater precision because you can locate the interviewees. We also made a second check on each location by telephone.”

(Venezuelanalysis.com)  Venezuela President Continue to Dominate Polls for Recall Referendum.  By Martin Sanchez.  August 8, 2004.

A week before the Aug 15 recall referendum on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, new polls continue showing the embattled leader as the winner of the long awaited recall. Chavez's advantage ranges between 8 and 31 percent, depending on the poll.

Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela's highest circulation newspaper, reported yesterday that pro-opposition pollsters Consultores 21 gave the "no" recall recall option 55% of support, and 45% to the opposition's "yes".

According to the paper, U.S. opinion research firm Evans McDonough Company and Venezuelan firm Varianzas Opinion, gave Chavez a 51% of support and 43% to the opposition.

Polling firm Impediosa puts the "no" option at 53%, and the anti-Chavez "yes" at 39%, according to Ultimas Noticias.

Last Friday, polling firm North American Opinion Research unveiled the results of their latest survey giving the "no" recall option 63% against 32% the opposition's "yes" option, a 31% advantage to Chavez.

The Director of Venezuelan operations of the company, Carlos Sanchez, declared that the poll was conducted between Aug 1st and 5th, surveying 1,200 voters in 20 states. The poll was done through home interviews and had a 3.5% margin of error.

According to Sanchez the poll determined that 7% are undecided and 4% of voters will abstain.

President Chavez remains the country’s most popular figure with 59% those surveyed favoring him. Opposition leader and eventual presidential candidate Enrique Mendoza's support hovers around 14%, while other opposition figures such as Enrique Salas Römer, Julio Borges and Juan Fernandez got 9, 5 and 3 percent respectively.

Due to the opposition's questioning of his company's survey results, Sanchez invited the media -most of which openly opposes the President- to a cocktail on the 17th of August to compare his company's findings with official numbers of the recall referendum.

Venezuela's poll war became quite colorful last Wednesday when opposition newspaper El Universal published on its front page a poll favoring the opposition and allegedly by firm Seijas y Asociados, which turned out to be false and of an unknown origin. Seijas y Asociados declared not to have conducted such poll, and El Universal said they obtained the survey by e-mail. "Publishing an eight columns poll obtained by email on a paper's front page without verifying the source, should cause the newspaper's editor's to resign," said Venezuelan Information Minister Jesse Chacon.

Opposition politicians accuse Chavez of using public funds in social programs for the poor in order to bolster his political campaign. Some other oppositionists have said that pro-Chavez activists are continuously following pollsters around cities in order to be interviewed and alter the surveys. Some local political commentators aligned with the opposition have argued that many voters would respond in favor of Chavez during polls for fear of being the target of "government repression".

In spite of the fact that most polls in recent weeks show a clear Chavez advantage, influential international media outlets continue to argue that polls show Chavez losing the recall or are too close to call. "The more reputable polling firms suggest the opposition is in the lead, albeit by an uncomfortably small margin," said the latest issue of Newseek in an article written by Phil Gunson.

"The polls - by the opposition and by the government - are often too close to call," said correspondent Juan Forero in the Aug 6th issue of The New York Times.

14,245,615 Venezuelans are registered to vote in the recall. Last Thursday, Venezuela's National Electoral Council approved a contingency plan to use manual voting procedures in case of tecnical problems with the electronic voting machines to be used in the recall. The machines will be audited today in order to determine their accuracy and reliability.

(Inter Press Service)  Venezuela: Polls Point to Likely Chávez Victory.  By Humberto Márquez.  August 11, 2004.

For the past two and a half years, political polls in Venezuela showed that a majority of respondents were opposed to President Hugo Chávez. But that has now changed.

Most of the latest polls have indicated that he is likely to win next Sunday's recall referendum, when 14 million voters will decide whether to revoke his mandate or allow him to complete his term, which ends in January 2007.

Venezuela "is in the midst of a survey war and many of us are falling victim," said Félix Seijas of the Datos polling company, refuting a newspaper cover story that reported that in a poll by his firm, 50 percent of those interviewed were against Chávez and 44 percent in his favor.

That information is false, said the pollster, who added that the real results of the survey, carried out "for very private persons and institutions, can absolutely not be revealed."

However, he did mention that Datos does not consider the number of "ni-ni" or "neither-nor" votes – those neither with Chávez nor the opposition – an important issue.

In late June, Keller and Associates interviewed 1,200 people throughout the country and found that 34 percent intended to vote "Yes" to the proposal of removing Chávez, while 45 percent said they would vote "No," and 19 percent said they were undecided.

But Alfredo Keller, the company director, said the "Yes" vote could win if the "undecideds" vote against Chávez.

"The opposition can win if they get the hidden vote – those people who, on the day of the referendum, will vote for an option that differs from what they said in the survey," he argued.

The opposition Democratic Coordinator coalition, which gathered the signatures to trigger the referendum against Chávez, has practically adopted the "hidden vote" theory as its official argument.

"Venezuela is going to be like Nicaragua in 1990, when the [pre-election] polls indicated that the [governing leftist] Sandinista [National Liberation Front] would win, but then the opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro triumphed," Democratic Coordinator spokesman Jesús Torrealba told IPS.

However, political analyst Eleazar Díaz Rangel, former head of the Latin American Federation of Journalists, said "it is not true that the polls failed in Nicaragua. The Ecco, Grenberg, Bendicen and Belden polling companies failed, but Cid, Borges, Mora y Araujo and Venezuela's Doxa all said Chamorro would win."

Opposition leaders and many of their supporters writing in the press argue the "hidden vote" is that of civil servants or those living in poor neighborhoods who, in environments dominated by supporters of Chávez, say they will vote "No," but when casting their secret ballot will actually vote "Yes."

Also in June, Grenberg interviewed 2,000 voters, in association with Venezuelan firms, and came up with a tie at 48 percent for each side.

North American Opinion Research, based in the northeastern U.S. state of Delaware, surveyed 2,600 people in all 24 provinces in July and found that 60 percent said they would vote for Chávez and 35 percent against.

Another U.S. firm, Evans/McDonough, working with the local company Varianzas in July, found that 51 percent of their 2,000-strong sample said they would vote for Chávez and 43 percent against, while six percent said they would not vote at all. The polling company thus predicted a victory for the president by 55 percent against 45 percent of the electorate.

The Venezuelan company Hinterlaces polled 1,500 people in the ten most densely populated areas of the country in July and found 51 percent in favor of Chávez, 40 percent against and nine percent undecided or planning not to vote.

Results are still pending from the two companies most used by private companies in Venezuela, Mercanálisis and Datanálisis. Their figures from the second half of 2001 until May 2004 saw support for Chávez varying between 28 and 43 percent, while the opposition share ranged from 57 to 72 percent of voters.

This variation is due to the fact that "a survey is a snapshot of the moment, of the day. Things can change in such a complicated, polarized and volatile set of circumstances like the present," Datanálisis director Luis León told IPS.

"The opposition and the media have presented surveys against the government and President Chávez for years, and now that the tide is turning, they refuse to show their results," said Information Minister Jesse Chacón.

Germán Campos with the Varianzas polling firm told IPS that "results based on different but equally valid samples can differ in a political situation as closed and entrenched" as that of Venezuela today.

"At the moment it can be said the two sides are very close," said León, as the government and the opposition have a rock-solid hold on one-third of the electorate each, meaning the decision is in the hands of the "non-aligned" – the group Seijas says does not actually exist.

But according to Evans/McDonough, 86 percent of those surveyed by the firm in June were already sure of how they would vote, while North American Opinion Research found that 92 percent of their interviewees were sure of their decision.

"There is a clear tendency that many more will vote to ratify Chávez in office than to revoke his mandate," said Evans/McDonough executive Alex Evans.

Samuel Moncada of the pro-government election campaign team told IPS "the true hidden vote was not shown in the surveys for a long time – that of Venezuelans who were waiting to see whether or not there would be a referendum. Now that there will be a vote, they will express their support for the president."

In the final stretch of the campaign, the governing coalition – which has offered more abundant and eye-catching propaganda than the opposition – is counting on mass rallies to demonstrate that the support forecast in the surveys is real.

In the meantime, the Democratic Coordinator is carrying out what it calls a "silent campaign," with door to door visits to people who have at some time signed a petition against Chávez, to shore up the conviction that the "hidden vote" will come through on Sunday.

(OAI Press)  Latest Poll by Universidad Central de Venezuela: Chavez will be recalled in any scenario.  August 12, 2004.

Antonio París, President of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), Venezuela’s foremost public University, stated that according to the latest poll conducted by a qualified team made up of teaching staff, Venezuela’s current President, Hugo Chávez Frías, will be without a doubt separated from his office in the coming Recall Referendum on August 15th.

In the wake of recent battles between contradicting polls, most of which reflected a slim margin between the options for YES Chavez leaving office and NO against Chavez leaving office, UCV’s results reveal that even in the most pessimistic scenario, victory would belong to the recall-supporting YES voters. The survey was conducted by UCV’s Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences (FACES), and was designed and managed by four in-campus statistics experts and their students.

The results obtained by the poll are highly reliable, due to the rigorous technical and objective criteria to which it adheres. Any person or institutions, national or international, which were to use the same standards and procedures would quickly come to the same conclusion: President Chavez will be revoked.

París stated that the poll was conducted with a 3% margin of error, and its results are 90% reliable. The methodology employed was based on a segmented and proportional sample selection from broad geographic regions, narrowing them down to counties, cities and urban city blocks, finally interviewing individuals living or working in each of these urban blocks. UCV’s survey was drawn from a sample of 1200 people of voting age residing in all of the country’s regions, counties and cities as stated above. The survey was then divided in 3 scenarios Worst, Probable and Best Case scenarios according to the number of voters participating in the presidential recall referendum.

With regards to projected voters’ intentions, the most optimistic scenario for the YES voters reflects 54% in favor of Chavez leaving office, and 40% against his recall, having a significant difference of 14%. A more subdued scenario, which the University believes will be the one to play out in the coming referendum, gives the YES voters 51% of total votes vs. 43% for the NO proponents, creating an 8% margin in favor of the YES option. The most pessimistic of the possible scenarios for the opposition, predicts 48% in favor of Chavez leaving office, and 46% against Chavez’s removal from office, which would mean a close victory for the opposition by a scant 2%.

To be more precise, París explained that in the case that 10 million voters decided to participate, which represents 75% of the voting population, the opposition in a worst-case scenario would net a total of 5,053,000 votes, while the probable numbers should be around 5,639,000 votes. With this amount of support, the recall referendum would oust Chavez from office. Paris commented that “we must remember that the required votes for the recall’s success are 3,657,773.”

In the event that 11 million voters take part in the referendum, which would represent 83% of the voting population, the estimates would change as follows: in the worst-case scenario the opposition would obtain 5,592,000 votes, in the most probable scenario, it could rack up 5,942,000 votes and best-case scenario projections would push the number of votes over 6,249,000. Paris then posed the hypothetical scenario of 0 abstention, meaning that the total universe of 14 million voters decide to participate, the results would be for the YES advocates: a worst-case scenario of 6,700,000, in the most probable scenario we’d see 7,150,000, while the best case scenario would be well over 7,500,000 YES votes, which emphasizes in a more eloquent way that Chavez is definitely out of the Presidential office of the Republic.

(Vheadline.com)  El Mundo withdraws its Friday edition for publishing yet another fake poll.  August 8, 2004.

Radio Nacional de Venezuela’s Luigino Bracci reports: The opposition newspaper El Mundo, owned by the Cadena Capriles group, withdrew its Friday afternoon edition on its owner’s orders. The edition was substituted with one sporting a different headline. The substitution was denounced by social commentator Nestor Francia on the Venezolana de Television program “La Hojilla.”

Francia held up the two editions in front of the TV cameras. The original headline reads “Yes 51%, No 43% confirms a UCV poll.” The new headline reads “Rallies liven up the streets.”

El Mundo’s original headline refers to a poll published Wednesday by El Universal that was falsely attributed to Felix Seijas. On Friday, El Universal said that the poll was real, but that it was supposedly conducted by professors at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV).

The survey admits that it was conducted in middle and upper middle class neighborhoods, excluding neighborhoods representative of a large part of the Venezuelan population. For this reason, Francia called the survey “a joke played on Venezuelans.”

Miguel Angel Capriles, one of the newspaper’s owners, ordered the Friday edition to be recollected, and asked El Mundo director Francisco “Kico” Bautista to create a new edition with a new headline because the poll headlining the first edition was a fake.

Withdrawing newspaper editions hasn’t occurred since the second term of ex-president Carlos Andres Perez (1989-1993), who ordered DISIP and other state security agencies to destroy several editions of El Nacional and several political opinion magazines after the “caracazo” of February 1989 and the attempted coups of February and November of 1992.  But on this occasion it was the owners who ordered the retraction.

(Vheadline.com)  El Mundo director Kiko Bautista resigns over UCV opinion poll withdrawal.  August 11, 2004.

Afternoon newspaper El Mundo director Francisco "Kiko" Bautista has resigned, saying he had no choice but to do so when editor/publisher, Miguel Angel Capriles decided to stop the presses last Friday.

The bone of contention is an Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) opinion polls on recall referendum tendencies.

Bautista backed his news editor Orlando Luna (who has also resigned) headline, "Vote kills Polls" and an article claiming that the opposition would win the recall 51-43%.

Kiko has hinted that Communications & Information (MinCi) Minister, Jesse Chacon's strong broadside against the news story was responsible for the publisher pulling the edition and changing the splash headline.

Bautista says he was in Puerto La Cruz at the time and that he only met Capriles on Sunday. "I understand that Mr. Capriles tried to reach me to tell about the change of headline and edition ... unfortunately, it wasn't possible ... in any case, I wouldn't have accepted the change ... I cannot accept that I was passed over as director and editor."

Among those attending Kiko's press conference in a show of solidarity were leading opposition personalities: Felipe Mujica, Carlos Melo, Carlos Tablante, Manuel Malaver and Ibeyise Pacheco.

According to Bautista (linked to Movimiento al Socialismo-MAS), Friday's headline was a response to an attack by Media Minister Chacon, who on Thursday had complained that the private media were manipulating survey figures ... Friday's was just another example in a series of bugus poll results deliberately designed to convey misleading results.

(Petroleum World)  Chavez should be ousted by more than 50% of voters, less than 40% abstaining.  By Gustavo Coronel.  August 12, 2004.

Polls are important, of course, and they have had their say. One of the most reputed poll agencies in the world, GALLUP, gave the YES, only yesterday, a ten point margin. However, now is the time for every one of us to trust our instincts. I can smell victory in the air, as certainly as I could smell a “parrilla” in a Las Mercedes restaurant. It smells wonderful and gives a sense of total confidence in the outcome of the referendum next Sunday.

(Miami Herald)  Former close Chávez aide predicts loss for boss.  By Andres Oppenheimer.  August 13, 2004.

While polls say that Sunday's recall referendum on leftist President Hugo Chávez is too close to call, Chávez's mentor and former top aide Luis Miquilena told me in a rare interview Thursday that he has little doubt about the vote's outcome: The opposition will win.

Miquilena, the former communist party politician who was the architect of Chávez's 1998 electoral victory and later served as his interior minister, is believed to be the man who introduced Chávez to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. He was Chávez's ideological guide after Chávez was released from prison following a failed 1992 coup attempt, and the two became close friends when Chávez took refuge in Miquelena's house and lived there for about five years in the late '90s.

Miquilena says he parted ways with Chávez in mid-2002, frustrated by the president's failure to heed his advice to tone down his incendiary rhetoric, which was increasingly turning growing sectors of society against the government. Since then, the septuagenarian politician has remained largely silent.

'I think the `yes' vote [calling for Chávez's immediate departure] is a majority in this country. I'm pretty sure about that,'' Miquilena told me in a two-hour interview at a mutual friend's home. "My only concern is that the government has already pulled so many tricks to try to avoid this referendum, that one can only imagine [the worst] about what they could do if they feel they will lose it.''

Why is he so sure that the anti-Chávez vote will win?, I asked. After all, some credible polls have even given a slight edge to Chávez in recent weeks, since the government started intimidating voters and unloading hundreds of millions of dollars from the country's huge oil income in stipends for the poor, I argued.

''In his best moment, in the 1998 election, Chávez got 3.7 million votes,'' Miquilena said. "You could feel in your skin that Chavismo was a winner at that time. But since then, he has lost support from all the groups that originally backed him.''

As an example, Miquilena cited the fact that Chávez had to bus in paid demonstrators from the countryside for his massive campaign rally in Caracas last Sunday. And many of these people left even before Chávez had finished his speech, he added.

''Today, you have paid [pro-Chávez] demonstrations,'' Miquilena said. ``Until two or three years ago, we would just whistle and people would come on their own. We never had to pay them a cent. They would even pay their way to come from the countryside. That [change] is a very telling sign.''

Is Chávez a real ''revolutionary,'' as he claims?, I asked. Or is he just a would-be dictator looking for an ideology to justify his abuses?

''Chávez is the most unpredictable man I have met in my life,'' Miquilena said. He contradicts himself constantly, is temperamental, unpunctual, disorganized and is surrounded by yes-men, he said. ''But he does not have a structured mind'' with a grand plan to do a Cuban-styled revolution, he added.

Miquilena said it was he who introduced Chávez to the Cubans. Miquilena had invited the Cuban ambassador for a lunch with Chávez at his home in 1994. The Cubans were incensed that then-President Rafael Caldera had received Cuban exile leader Jorge Mas Canosa and wanted to invite Chávez to give an anti-Caldera speech in Havana.

Miquilena didn't go, because the ambassador told them he didn't know whether Castro would see them.

"So Chávez went to Cuba with a young lieutenant. To his big surprise, Fidel not only saw him at his office, but he was waiting for him at the staircase of the airplane when they arrived, and would stick with him around the clock for the remainder of his trip. From then on, they got very close.''

By the time the interview was over, the neighborhood where we had met was flooded with tens of thousands of anti-Chávez demonstrators heading to a closing campaign rally.  As I left and ran into the crowds, I felt for a fleeting moment that the opposition has a chance.

(AlterNet)  Truth and Denial in Venezuela.  By Ted Nordhaus.  August 20, 2004.

The Amazon may be South America's longest river, but denial, to borrow the old gag, is today the longest river in Venezuela. On Monday opposition leaders were reported to be "shocked" and "stunned" upon learning from former President Jimmy Carter and the Organization of American States that the referendum to recall President Hugo Chavez had been defeated in a landslide, 58 to 42 percent.

While a mass popular rejection of President Chavez and his policies may have appeared likely when viewed from the comfortable confines of Caracas' fashionable Los Mercedes neighborhood, any clear eyed examination of the Venezuelan electorate and Chavez's past electoral successes would have suggested that such an outcome was unlikely.

What has been clear since at least the end of May, when the referendum qualified for the ballot, is that the underlying dynamics in last Sunday's vote would not look fundamentally different than those at play in President Hugo Chavez's earlier electoral victories. In a nation in which the overwhelming majority of the population is poor, most of the poor believe that Chavez had their interests at heart.

Our polling consistently showed that significant majorities of Venezuelans believed that President Chavez "cares about people like me" and "cares about the poor" while few Venezuelans believed that these phrases accurately described the opposition. Poor and working class Venezuelans, who make up almost eighty percent of the electorate, were rejecting the referendum by a margin of almost twenty points from the moment it qualified for the ballot.

It came as no surprise to us, nor to just about anyone else who took a hard look at the polling, the results of past elections, and the basic demographics of the Venezuelan nation, that Chavez defeated the recall by almost exactly the same landslide vote that had elected him twice before.

That an out of power, out of touch, and anti-democratic elite might find the result shocking is perhaps not groundbreaking news. What is a good deal more disturbing is that U.S. and international media outlets consistently swallowed the opposition's unlikely claims of certain victory hook, line, and sinker.

News stories in the months leading up to the referendum consistently referred to Chavez as "closing the gap" even when most credible polls showed him winning. As the election drew closer and polls showed Chavez's advantage widening dramatically, news stories insisted that the polls predicted a "close election." Not until former President Carter confirmed the results of the election did the media acknowledge the overwhelming mandate won by President Chavez.

By the end the opposition, led by government-financed activist group "Súmate", twice resorted to circulating bogus polls in an attempt to prop up the fiction that Venezuelans were prepared to reject Chavez's presidency. The last of these, a bizarre "exit poll" conducted at polling places by anti-Chavez activists and, unconscionably, endorsed by and attributed to the New York-based pollster Mark Penn, was nothing more than a transparent attempt to discredit the results of the election.

Thankfully, the news media has finally recognized the depth of Chavez's popularity and is starting to treat the Venezuelan opposition with the skepticism that it deserves.

Now it is time for North Americans to look beyond the hysteria surrounding Chavez's friendship with Fidel Castro and his antagonistic stance towards President Bush and understand that the political turmoil of the last five years in Venezuela has really been a fundamental struggle to determine who will control the nation's oil wealth and who will benefit from it.

The overwhelming rejection of the referendum to recall President Chavez gives eloquent testimony to the emptiness of the opposition's rhetoric. Calls for reconciliation and negotiation too will ring hollow unless all involved accept that Venezuela will not go back to the way it was before Chavez. Venezuela's poor majority, for the first time, has a real voice in Venezuelan politics and will continue to demand that the nation's substantial resource wealth be used to better their lives. No popular movement in Venezuela, nor any attempt at reconciliation, will succeed that fails to acknowledge this reality.

(Vheadline.com)  USA polling firm declares Chavez Frias as referendum winner by 62%.  September 1, 2004.

RNV Press (Luigino Bracci): The Venezuelan operations manager of North American Opinion Research (NAOR) polling firm, Carlos Sanchez, has released the results of a survey that took place during the week of August 6-12, 2004, showing the NO vote in the presidential referendum reached 62% and the YES vote reached 35%.

According to Sanchez, these numbers had not been released because the National Electoral Council (CNE) had prohibited any type of projections during that date according to campaign rules.

The numbers released by the polling firm, when contrasted with the official numbers (NO: 59%, YES: 41%) present a margin of error of 3% ... "which makes this a very accurate projection" the firm's manager said.

In addition, NAOR released projections by State, where the NO tendency was also ratified as winning ... with a margin of error of less than 5 points in 17 of the 23 States. In the remaining 6 States, the margin of error was of less than 10 percentage points.  "This is an extremely accurate projection. It is product of our field work and rigorous follow-up work in the Venezuelan electoral panorama during the pre-referendum days."

Sanchez explains that during the months of May, June, July and August, 5 field studies took place, which gave numbers stating that the No vote always maintained a tendency of around 60% and the Yes vote, 40%.  Chavez has the greatest score in individual leadership in Venezuela

(Venezuelanalsis.comIt’s Time for Venezuela’s Private Media to Come Clean with the Opposition.  By Justin Delacour.  September 1, 2004.

In a Voice of America news program on Sunday, August 29th, four U.S.-based analysts debated the Venezuelan opposition's accusations that the government of President Hugo Chavez had committed fraud in the country's August 15 referendum.  Despite the fact that three of the four analysts were openly anti-Chavez, only one--Thor Halvorssen of the libertarian-leaning Commonwealth Foundation--argued that there were indications of "something very, very awry” in the country’s referendum. 

In contrast, Michael Shifter of the anti-Chavez Inter-American Dialogue pointed out that "credible groups like the Carter Center and the Organization of American States" did not find fraud in the referendum.  Chris Sabatini, the director of Latin America programs at the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, said, "I think, by and large, the results track with the polls that were done before the elections."  Rachel Van Dongen, who reports for The Christian Science Monitor and The New Republic, reaffirmed Sabatini's point, stating, "the polls leading up to the referendum itself did show Chavez with a lead that he'd been widening over the months leading up to the referendum..."

Halvorssen then interrupted Von Dongen, asking, "Which polls?"

"There were several polls," Van Dongen replied.

Halvorssen retorted: "The government polls, correct. The polls paid for by the government.”

Sabatini interjected, "No, no."

Van Dongen replied, "I think there were others as well, if I recall correctly..."

Indeed, Van Dongen did recall correctly.  Most pre-referendum polls were commissioned by the opposition, not the government.  In June, the Venezuelan polling firm Datos carried out a poll for the opposition which showed Chavez leading 51 to 39.  Also that month, the U.S.-based Democratic Party polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) --working on behalf of the opposition-- released a poll showing Chavez ahead 49 to 44.  In early August, the anti-Chavez pollster Alfredo Keller released a poll showing Chavez ahead 45 to 34.  Even the oft-cited anti-Chavez polling firm Datanalisis --which has used deceiving methods to inflate the opposition's polling numbers-- appears to have found Chavez leading in July (Datanalisis didn't release the precise figures of its July poll, presumably because it did not want to further demoralize the opposition).

In fact, I don't know of one Venezuelan pollster whose last poll before the referendum didn't show Chavez in the lead.      

Thus, when I recently read Halvorssen's erroneous assertion in his August 19 column in the Wall Street Journal that "dozens of independent polls predicted defeat for Col. Chávez," I was astonished.  Does the concept of "fact-checking" mean anything to the Journal's editors?  Halvorssen's assertion wasn't even consistent with the Journal's own reports; on August 11, the Journal ran a pie chart of Keller's poll, showing Chavez with a commanding lead just before the referendum. 

Sadly, many Venezuelan opponents of Chavez, such as Halvorssen, have been stirred into a blind frenzy by private Venezuelan media that are dead set on destabilizing the country politically and economically.  As the referendum approached, most private media refused to publish the polls showing Chavez in the lead, even when these polls were commissioned by the opposition itself.  Such omissions on the part of Venezuela's private media fuel the opposition's unfounded accusations of fraud.  By keeping the opposition in the dark about the fact that Chavez had been leading since at least June, private media have been able to deceive many members of the opposition into believing that the government's victory is fraudulent.  But the government had no interest in jeopardizing the integrity of the electoral process; it was clearly poised to win a clean referendum.  Logically, the claim of "fraud" would only carry weight among people who were unaware of the many indications that Chavez would likely win.                

It's time for Venezuela’s private media to come clean with the opposition.  For the private media to keep the opposition in the dark is neither good for the development of a responsible and informed opposition nor for the political, social and economic development of the country.

The following articles are comments about the polling situation in Venezuela.

(NarcoSphere)  Venezuela's Private Media and Pollsters: An Echo Chamber that Would Make Goebbels Proud.  By Justin Delacour.  June 29, 2004.

More than a year ago, I received a somewhat angry message from an opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez regarding an article that I wrote for Narco News criticizing the political partiality and methodological problems of Venezuela's two most cited pollsters ("Can You Believe Venezuela's Pollsters?", January 22, 2003). A number of anti-Chavez critiques of my article, including one by Francisco Toro, were pasted below the message.

For those who are not familiar with Toro, he is a well-known anti-Chavez activist based in Caracas whom the New York Times once hired as a reporter, in violation of the Times' own claims to objective and disinterested reporting. Toro runs an anti-Chavez weblog called the Caracas Chronicles.

At the time that I received this angry message, I was preoccupied with other issues, so, if I recall correctly, I did not read the critique by Toro that followed the message. However, the recent agreement in Venezuela to move ahead with a recall referendum on Chavez's government, as well as the Venezuelan President's recent citations of my article on Radio Nacional de Venezuela, have re-sparked interest in the topic of the pollsters. Thus, I have decided to revisit one of Toro's criticisms in order to show just how vacuous the Venezuelan opposition's defense of their pollsters is. I will address Toro’s other "main" criticisms in future entries.  

Toro writes:

The main reply to the writer... is that he's arguing by innuendo. These guys [the pollsters] are personally anti-Chavez (indubitable) therefore they're cheating on their polls (highly questionable). He never argues the link between the two, other than to suggest that anyone who is anti-Chavez is by definition such a nasty rat that he can't possibly be honest in reporting poll results.
Actually, I never once put forth an argument that, since Venezuelan pollsters Alfredo Keller and Jose Antonio Gil Yepes were "personally anti-Chavez," they must have therefore been "cheating on their polls." First of all, Keller and Gil Yepes are not just "personally anti-Chavez"; they are publicly anti-Chavez, and virulently so, to the point that one was even quoted by the L.A. Times as calling for Chavez's assassination, while the other sanctified the April 11 coup --on Peruvian radio-- as a "de facto referendum.” I made it abundantly clear in my original report that the pollsters had increasingly become identified publicly with the opposition and that they had made little effort to avoid this public perception. If it were only a matter of the pollsters' "personal" beliefs --not one of public declarations-- it would not be an issue. However, once the public comes to associate a pollster with a political side, the pollster's public associations become problematic in and of themselves because they are likely to bias the responses of the population sample being polled.

All of this was made perfectly clear in my original report, but, since Toro seems to have overlooked this, allow me to refresh his memory with a passage from my article:

...even if we were to assume that Keller and Gil Yepes are not loading their questions, the poll respondents’ simple awareness of the pollsters’ political partisanship is likely to skew the polls in favor of the opposition.
We asked Matthew Mendelsohn, a Canadian political scientist and specialist on polling methodology, whether or not the pollsters' well-known political partisanship --independent of all other factors-- could bias polling results. Although Mendelsohn told us that he lacked knowledge about polling in Latin America, he responded as follows:
"Any perception on the part of the respondent that the questioner is partisan can influence results. You see this with interviewer effects all the time -- male and female, black and white, etc. interviewers get different results. And certainly if the respondent knows that you're a representative from a particular party or group, this biases results."
Contrary to the argument put forth by Toro, I never once suggested that "anyone who is anti-Chavez is by definition such a nasty rat that he can't possibly be honest in reporting poll results." Once a pollster becomes publicly associated with a political side --either pro or anti-Chavez, in this case-- the problem is not necessarily that he or she is incapable of honestly reporting poll results but rather that the results themselves are likely to be biased.

Given that all of this was made readily clear in the original report, I would like to discuss the issues of why Toro seems so incapable of addressing my actual points and why, instead, he is only able to address his own false caricatures of the arguments put forth in the article.

The Anti-Chavez Echo Chamber

Imagine a society where almost all private media, in accordance with the interests of the dominant class that owns and controls them, have made a conscious decision to subordinate their advertising, political “reporting” and publication of “polls” to the goal of overthrowing a democratically elected government. Venezuelans have no difficulty imagining this; the country’s private media are completely devoted to the overthrow of a government that they consider insufficiently subservient to their interests. In fact, in his own infantile sort of way, even Toro comprehends this, although his understanding is naturally devoid of any meaningful class analysis. On January 25, 2003, Toro wrote the following in his weblog: “…Venezuela’s private media… decided that political activism is much more fun than, y’know, actually reporting. Of course, I also decided that too….”

The absence of politically pluralistic private media should not be very difficult for U.S. citizens to imagine either, since --to the extent that private U.S. media cover Venezuela-- they too are largely united in their hostility toward the Chavez government, for much the same reasons that private Venezuelan media are. The interests of the powerful demand that political debate exist only within narrow bounds. Thus, to move outside those bounds --in other words, to actually challenge powerful economic interests and to question the imperialist behavior upon which those interests depend-- is generally not considered acceptable “journalistic” behavior.

Venezuela’s private media have essentially become a vast echo chamber, where debate is limited to tactical questions of how best to extinguish the threat to dominant class interests. Unfortunately, the de-pluralization of political discourse within private media tends to have highly degenerative effects on the rational faculties of those sectors of society that either belong to the economic elite or come under the mesmerizing influence of its propaganda apparatus. As one can easily see, the de-pluralization of discourse leads to increasing intolerance of dissenting views, thereby exacerbating authoritarian tendencies among both elites and the technocratic sectors to which they are aligned. This is especially the case during historical junctures when dissenting views come to hold greater sway among the general population and thus directly compromise dominant class interests.

Delusions of the Propaganda Apparatus

Within this context, the technocratic and educated sectors that fulfill the elite’s propaganda function come to develop strange delusions about themselves. They begin to confuse their technocratic capacities with the supposed legitimacy and coherence of their ideas. Forgetting that their influential roles are based entirely on their subservience to dominant class interests, they come to adopt a circular logic, whereby their power to disseminate their message confers legitimacy on the message itself. Thus, subconsciously, the privately-controlled propaganda apparatus comes to equate its subservience to economic power with the legitimacy of its ideas.

This logic was readily apparent in Venezuelan pollster Alfredo Keller’s comments about my article. At the top of Keller’s list of reasons why he chose not to respond to the article, he writes:

It occurred to me to look into Narco News to understand the context within which the article appeared. We’re talking about a digital newspaper that clearly backs all these leftist movements that are invading Latin America (Lula, Gutierrez, the Sandinistas, the FMLN, Elisa Carrió, Evo Morales, etc.) and that praises Chavez, Fidel, the Andean coca-growers’ movements and other such wonderful company..
(“Invading” Latin America? Just where are these “leftist” movements “invading" from, Alfredo?).

So, in other words, Narco News doesn’t bow down before the economically powerful, as this discredited Venezuelan pollster does. In a nutshell, Keller argues that the source of the article is illegitimate on account of its lack of subservience to economic power.

Keller does not attempt to refute the arguments put forth in the article because, well, there isn't much that he can refute, a fact that he tacitly and begrudgingly acknowledges in the following quote:

The article, besides being written with great ability, comes out in defense of Chavez, so I ask myself, how much could it have cost?
I must admit how flattered I am by the suggestion that I may have been contracted by the Venezuelan government to write the article. Perhaps Alfredo will be disappointed to learn that I was never contacted by the Venezuelan government, nor did I receive a penny for writing the report, nor did I ever request payment. In case Alfredo wasn’t aware, his virulently anti-Chavez ruminations had been blared all over the internet long before I wrote the report, so my research tasks weren’t exactly daunting.

In consultation with Narco News editor Al Giordano, I decided to investigate Venezuela’s major pollsters and publish my findings for one simple reason: the story was highly newsworthy. Even in the United States, where the private media are almost invariably subservient to corporate interests, journalists generally do not cite polls by pollsters who have publicly partisan connections. Given these well-known standards, it is simply mind-boggling to witness the amateurism of English-language correspondents in Venezuela, who have routinely cited polls by Keller and Gil Yepes without mentioning that the two pollsters are virulently and publicly anti-Chavez.

How, after all, could Keller or Gil Yepes honestly deny the uncontestable fact that their open partisanship compromises the professionalism of their operations? Not surprisingly, Keller avoids the subject altogether, hoping perhaps that, as long as Venezuela’s private media remain one vast anti-Chavez echo chamber --and that, at least with regard to Venezuela, private U.S. media remain essentially the same-- the facts will not receive much exposure. As the old riddle goes, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it still make a sound?”

This brings me back to my original point about Toro’s inability to address my actual arguments. While the private propaganda apparatus and its ruling class overlords pay ample lip service to the virtues of competition in the marketplace, they are quite unwilling to submit themselves to competition in the realm of ideas. As they vigilantly bar their ideological competitors from their vast echo chamber, their capacity to rationally engage their political foes begins to atrophy. Their growing intolerance of dissenting views --combined with their delusions that their influential roles are somehow based on the merits of their ideas rather than on their subservience to economic power-- leads them to become intellectually lazy.

Thus, instead of honestly trying to interpret the arguments of an ideological foe, it suffices for Toro to erect crude caricatures of those arguments --caricatures that have no resemblance to the arguments that I actually made-- and then to respond to the caricatures.

In Toro's concluding remarks about my article --directed at someone else in the opposition who was apparently concerned about the article's possible effects-- he states the following:

Thankfully, the 20,000 people who read ZMag [note: the article also ran on the progressive U.S. webzine ZNet, at http://www.zmag.org/] are all equally blinded by ideology and unreasonable, and such writing is most unlikely to reach or influence people who matter, who know anything at all, or who have anything like an open mind. So I really wouldn't worry about it.
Sound familiar?

Yeah, well, we all know that there's nothing like an echo chamber to feed an "open mind."

(Venezuelanalysis.comWishful Polling: Systematic Bias and Manipulation in Venezuela’s Public Opinion Racket.  By Jonah Gindin.  July 13, 2004.

With Venezuela’s campaign to recall or reaffirm Hugo Chávez’ Presidential mandate heating up, opinion polls are coming out on what seems like a daily basis. Yet rather than giving any indication of the outcome of the recall referendum this August 15th, they are reinforcing both camps of their projected victories. According to Venezuelan polling company Consultores 21, for example, support for the recall against President Chávez was 65.8% in March, though they note that it has recently fallen to 54.5%.[i]

In May another Venezuelan polling firm Datanálisis, put support for the recall at 57.4% (a ‘Yes’ vote), and 43.6% against (a ‘No’ vote).[ii] Directly contradicting Consultores 21 and Datanálisis was North American Opinion Research Inc. who recently announced nearly the exact inverse results in a poll they conducted in June: 57% ‘No’ to the recall, 41% ‘Yes’.[iii] Corroborating these figures was Venezuelan polling company Indaga who broke public opinion down at 55% ‘No’, and 42% ‘Yes’.[iv]

In two editorials published a week apart in Venezuela’s largest circulating daily newspaper Ultimas Noticias, Eleazar Díaz Rangel discussed the inconsistent history of polling companies in Venezuela. Rangel (no relation to the Vice-President) notes that in 1968, the first year that polls were conducted for a Presidential election, projections bore no resemblance to the election results. The only company that correctly predicted Copei candidate Rafael Caldera’s victory, was off by over 12%! In what has become something of a trend, another poll—commissioned by Accíon Democrática (AD)—predicted that AD candidate Gonzalo Barrios and Caldera would tie.[v]

According to Rangel, the problem is that the polling industry in Venezuela is completely unregulated. No listing of companies conducting polls in Venezuela exists. Furthermore, “the situation is complicated by the fact that there is no mechanism to regulate quality, resulting in a situation where bogus firms proliferate along with legitimate organizations.”[vi]

While internationally recognized norms for opinion polling exist, they have not been applied in Venezuela. The World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) has guidelines to ensure professionalism and objectivity in opinion polling. According to WAPOR, “Adherence to this code is deemed necessary to maintain confidence that researchers in this field are bound by a set of sound and basic principles based on experience gained over many years of development.”[vii]

Aware of the prevalence of unqualified and uncertified organizations conducting opinion research around the world, the World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals (ESOMAR), in cooperation with WAPOR, has noted, “Far too often the term opinion poll is misused to describe unscientific and unrepresentative measurements of public opinion. Representativeness means the obtaining of measurements which can be generalised to apply without any statistical bias to the whole population under consideration.”[viii]

Rangel offers a few poignant examples of the inconsistency, and inaccuracy of Venezuela opinion polling, illustrating the degree to which it fails to live up to international standards of opinion research. Above, we saw how distant projections were from the results of Rafael Caldera’s 1968 Presidential victory. But that was the first year Venezuelan polling firms entered the Presidential election market, so perhaps their miscalculations could be excused. Unfortunately, they do not appear to have come very far since then.

In the Presidential elections of 1988, Carlos Andrés Pérez (AD) beat Eduardo Fernández (Copei) 54.6% to 41.7%, a margin of about 13% or approximately 1.3 million votes. The US polling firm Gallup correctly predicted Pérez’ victory, but slightly over-calculated his majority giving him 25% over Fernández, or approximately 2.5 million votes![ix]

More recently, in the 2000 Presidential elections the Venezuelan polling firm Mercanálisis published results for the Capital District—an area encompassing Caracas and its environs and accounting for 1.219.696 million registered voters (in 2000), or almost 10% of the population. Mercanálisis predicted that Chávez and his closest competitor Francisco Arías Cárdenas would receive 48% and 46%, respectively—a Chávez victory by a margin of 2%. Unfortunately for Mercanálisis’ track-record, Chávez roundly defeated Cárdenas in the Capital District 61.38% to 33.90%—a margin of 27.5%![x]

Rangel points out that Venezuela’s polling firms have failed to predict the results of the majority of elections in which they conducted surveys. Due to the lack of regulation and universally applied polling standards, it is impossible to distinguish between those companies whose failures reflect an inadequate methodology, and those who actively manipulate results to please the specific political figures, parties, or organizations that sponsor them. The solution, according to Rangel, is for national regulation, preferably by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The transparency, supervision, and nationally applied polling standards that this would entail would certainly raise Venezuelan polling from the depths of inaccuracy and subjectivity in which it has been immersed. However, such a solution still depends on the honesty and cooperation of polling firms that have shown themselves to have powerful partisan interests in the past.[xi]

In an article published in NarcoNews Bulletin last year, Justin Delacour noted some of the more profound barriers to responsible polling in Venezuela. At root is widespread partisanship among pollsters. He notes the President of Datanálisis’ declaration to the LATimes that the only solution to Venezuela’s current political impasse is for Chávez to be killed.[xii]

More recently, a key analyst at Datanálisis, Luis León, was listed as an advisor to the US-based Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in a recent grant application to the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The CIPE, along with the Venezuela-based Center for the Dissemination of Economic Information (CEDICE), were key contributors to the Venezuelan opposition umbrella-group Coordinadora Democratica’s (Democratic Coordinator) recent plan for a post-Chávez Venezuela “Plan Consensus Country,” released last Friday.[xiii]

León’s partisanship has not always remained hidden in classified NED documents, however: at a recent Datanálisis press conference León declared, “Chavez isn't completely out of the game, but he's in trouble.” “If the vote happens legally,” he continued, “Chavez should lose.”[xiv] This is a striking statement coming from an allegedly professional pollster in light of the fact, mentioned above, that there have been myriad polls predicting both possible outcomes in the upcoming recall election. Also, judging from Datanálisis’ track-record in predicting election results, León’s confidence is even less credible.

Certainly some form of national regulation and supervision is necessary. If, as Rangel suggests, some polling firms have in fact been fudging their reports to please their sponsors, they could in theory be held accountable to a national authority. However, the reality is that even without intentional manipulation, there is ample opportunity for polling firms to get the results they desire. Furthermore, if public opinion polls continue to be cited by each side to give the appearance that they have the momentum, the motivation to produce sponsor-friendly reports will remain.

Even without direct manipulation, polling firms still define their sample group, and phrase and present the questions. Unfortunately, for even the brightest of Venezuelan poll-related futures, no amount of regulation or supervision can take that away from them.


[i] Alex Kennedy, “Venezuela’s Chavez Gains in Poll Ahead of August Vote (Update 2),” www.bloomberg.com, http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=aE0jcNiXPM2E&refer=latin_america (July 7, 2004).

[ii] Peter Wilson, “Venezuela’s Chavez would lose Recall Vote, Poll Finds (Update 1),” bloomberg.com, http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=aKNvYA3oDmVM&refer=latin_america (June 23, 2004).

[iii] “Investigación de ‘North American Opinion Research’ indica que Chávez sería ratificado con 57% a favor,” elobservador online, http://elobservador.rctv.net/Noticias/VerNoticia.aspx?NoticiaId=158555&Tipo=14 (3 July, 2004).

[iv] Martín Sanchez, “Venezuela’s President has 57% Support Ahead of Recall, New Poll Says,” venezuelanalysis.com, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1304  (July 3, 2004).

[v] “I: Historias de las Encuestas,” Ultimas Noticias, www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve, also available at: www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f=15&t=6489 (4 July, 2004).

[vi] Eleazar Díaz Rangel, “II: Éxitos y Fracasos de las Encuestas,” Ultimas Noticias, www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve, also available at: www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f=15&t=6677 (11 July, 2004).

[vii] “Code of Professional Ethics and Practices: Introduction,” World Association of Public Opinion Research, www.unl.edu/wapor/ethics.html.

[viii] “ESOMAR/WAPOR Guide to Opinion Polls including the ESOMAR International code of Practice for the Publication of Opinion Poll Results: 3. Representativeness of Opinion Polls” World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals (ESOMAR)/World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR), www.esomar.org (1998, reprinted in 2003).

[ix] Rangel, “II: Éxitos…”

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Justin Delacour, “Can you Believe Venezuela’s Pollsters?” NarcoNews Bulletin, www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=45&ItemID=2985 (6 February, 2003).

[xiii] Martín Sanchez, “Venezuela’s Opposition Plan Promises Return to Free Market and Elimination of Referenda,” venezuelanalysis.com, www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1308 (13 July, 2004).

[xiv] Peter Wilson, “Venezuela’s Chavez would lose Recall Vote, Poll Finds (Update 1),” bloomberg.com, http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=aKNvYA3oDmVM&refer=latin_america (June 23, 2004).

(Venezuelanalysis.comSpinning “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics” in Venezuela.  By Justin Delacour.  July 31, 2004.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

– Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England (1868, 1874-1880)

As the August 15 referendum on whether Hugo Chávez should continue as president approaches in Venezuela, anti-Chávez pollsters have begun reluctantly issuing polls showing Chávez in the lead. In June, the Washington-D.C. based polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. – working on behalf of the opposition – conducted a poll showing that 49 percent of Venezuela’s registered voters would support President Chávez versus 44 percent that would vote to recall him. Another June poll by the Venezuelan firm DATOS – also commissioned by the opposition – gave Chávez 51 percent of support, against 39 percent who would vote against him.

Recently Chávez challenged other Venezuelan polling firms aligned to the opposition to release the results of their latest polls. Venezuelan Information Minister Jesse Chacón has claimed to have copies of these polls – which favor Chávez – and has threatened to publish them if the polling firms do not come forward.

One should not mistakenly conclude that these polls vindicate the anti-Chávez pollsters as “unbiased.” Rather, in the hour of truth, some pollsters – after having long engaged in highly biased polling designed to demoralize the government’s supporters and to embolden the opposition – will issue less biased polls in a last-ditch effort to salvage their own credibility in the face of impending defeat.

In early February 2003, the anti-Chávez Venezuelan polling firms Datanálisis and Consultores 21 held a joint press conference in Caracas claiming to be “neutral parties” in the country’s deeply polarized political conflict. Just over two weeks before the press conference, Narco News had highlighted that Datanálisis’ President Jose Antonio Gil Yepes had told the Los Angeles Times in July 2002 that Chávez “has to be killed.” Narco News pointed out that a simple glance at Datanálisis’ website revealed “the kind of blatant political partisanship that one normally does not associate with respectable polling operations” (as this report goes to print, Datanálisis’ website has been running John Kerry’s Chávez-bashing misstatement at the top of their “news” column for over a month).

Since Narco News first reported on Datanálisis’ blatant partisanship and biased polling, Gil Yepes has mysteriously disappeared as a public spokesperson for his company (although he occasionally pops up brandishing a letter from L.A. Times correspondent T. Christian Miller, who now supposedly claims that the pollster did not have criminal intent when he told Miller that Chávez “has to be killed”).

With Gil Yepes’ reputation in question, the job of restoring Datanálisis’ mythic neutrality was left to company director Luis Vicente León. Never mind that León had also been making blatantly anti-Chávez statements to the press long before Gil Yepes blurted out his homicidal fantasies to the L.A. Times. In Venezuela, where Chávez-bashing journalists abound, “neutrality” means telling the business-controlled propaganda apparatus what it wants to hear.

Thus, in the spirit of “neutrality,” León made a startling announcement at the conference of February 2003. Although it had long been established that Chávez enjoyed his highest levels of support among the poor, León declared that Datanálisis’ latest “poll” disproved the “myth” that public opinion was divided along class lines. According to León, “people of lower incomes” had become even more inclined to reject Chávez than the rest of Venezuelan society.

For anyone even slightly in tune with reality, León’s claim should have sent off alarm bells. Hardly more than two months before, Gil Yepes himself told the Associated Press that—while only 30 percent of the overall Venezuelan population supported the government—45 percent of the poor still approved of Chávez. Setting aside the question of whether or not Gil Yepes’ figures were based on methodologically sound polling (that issue will be taken up in the second part of this series), the figures suggested that the poor were more than twice as inclined to support Chávez as the rest of society, a finding that was consistent with past polls and election returns. Given that Venezuela’s poorest stratum (stratum E) accounts for just over 40 percent of the adult population, the only way Gil Yepes could arrive at an overall 30 percent approval rating amid 45 percent support for Chávez among the poor is if the President’s approval rating among the non-poor was close to 20 percent.

Did León actually expect people to believe that—in the course of two months—the poor had gone from being more than twice as likely to support Chávez to rejecting him at a higher rate than the middle and wealthier strata?

Puzzled by León’s claim, I decided to ask Jose Miguel Sandoval—an expert on Latin American opinion polls at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—how the political views among Venezuela’s poor could undergo such a dramatic shift. Sandoval replied that reports of “drastic changes of opinion in a short period of time are not to be taken seriously, particularly in Venezuela, where opinions are well entrenched.”

Curiously, León’s dubious “finding” of the “myth” of a class divide appeared just in time for the Venezuelan opposition’s new U.S. campaign strategists to spin the same story.

As the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported, prominent members of the Venezuelan opposition traveled to Washington in January 2003 and began consulting informally with Democratic Party strategist James Carville. Soon thereafter, the Democratic Party polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR)—the company of Carville’s associate and Clintonite pollster Stanley Greenberg—popped up in Venezuela working on behalf of the opposition.

In a clear demonstration of U.S. bipartisanship at the service of Uncle Sam’s reactionary foreign policy, GQR joined forces with the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies to carry out “polls” on behalf of the opposition. In March 2003, GQR released a misleading statement that its findings contrasted with “the assumption of many analysts that Venezuela is divided between the upper- and middle-class opponents of Chavez and his lower-class supporters.”

The strategy was clear; in order to beat Chávez, GQR —like Datanálisis—sought to deny the government of its base.

The only problem was that GQR’s denial of a class divide and Datanálisis’ claim that the poor were now even more disapproving of Chávez than middle and wealthier strata were strongly contradicted by the actual results of the GQR-POS “poll”. The “poll” showed that the poor (stratum E) and the relatively poor (stratum D)—which together represent about 80 percent of Venezuela’s adult population—were more than twice as likely to continue supporting Chávez than the middle to wealthier strata.

As it turned out, Datanálisis’ claim that the poor had turned against Chávez with greater vehemence than middle to wealthier strata was plainly dishonest.

Between November 2002 and February 2003—the period of business-led economic sabotage against the Venezuelan government and people—Datanálisis temporarily stopped sending field workers into Chavista-controlled slums. Due to the heightening of resentment towards biased pollsters as well as increasing levels of crime resulting from the misery induced by the economic sabotage, field workers could not safely perform surveys.

In other words, León relied on telephone polls for his claim that lower-income respondents had turned strongly against Chávez (Datanálisis’ website acknowledged that its December 2002 poll regarding the opposition’s so-called “general strike” was conducted by telephone). The sociologist Greg Wilpert, who resides in Caracas, estimates that only 50 percent of Venezuelan households have mainline telephones, meaning that Datanálisis could scarcely have polled stratum E (the poor) during the period on which León based his deceitful claim.

Now, as the opposition’s campaign is clearly faltering and Venezuela’s poor appear poised to turn out en masse against the recall of President Chávez, the failure of the anti-Chávez pollsters’ underhanded attempts to deny the government of its long-standing base becomes increasingly clear.  

(The NarcoSphere)  "Are the Polls Credible in Venezuela? Vote NO".  By Amber Howard.  August 1, 2004.

Currently in Venezuela a variety of information is being released by national and international polling groups in an attempt to predict the results of the Referendum coming up in two short weeks. Unfortunately, the impartiality of these polling groups has proved to be virtually non-existent. It has become a routine practice of the opposition to blatantly report information from groups of their choice that have strong interests in the removal of Chávez from power. These “facts” are then being distributed to press throughout the world.

An example of this is a poll that was requested and funded, according to a Reuters wire, by the private television station network Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), which openly opposes the government. This poll, which was published on the website Petroleumworld.com in an article entitled “Chávez fears losing the RR”, was conducted by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research. Its June study states that the intention of the NO vote has been improving, as an impact of the “missions”, to the point of overcoming the YES vote 49 % NO 44 %. The study shows that the YES is well ahead in Sectors A, B, C and D; the NO is ahead 59 % with the YES vote 38 % in E. It is crucial to keep in mind that those polled in sector E come from the poor neighborhoods of Caracas in which the people are heavily in favor of Chávez. Interestingly, the conclusion that the YES vote is ahead in the other sectors the comes from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research which is a firm from Washington used by the Democratic Party which is now in Venezuela working on behalf of the opposition. The Greenberg group in addition acknowledges conducting the polls at the request of opposition groups by stating on its web site that they have "helped the opposition movement build domestic and international support for the referendum through a series of strategic surveys and focus groups". Therefore, it is impossible that the information released has any basis in neutrality.

Typically it is crucial to have polling funded by independent groups, rather than one side or another. However in Venezuela this has not been the case. It is all too common to have an unrepresentative sample polled simply for a desired result.

In contrast, with the results released by Greenberg, another June poll by Venezuelan firm DATOS, gave Chávez 51% of support for the recall referendum, against 39% who would vote against him, according to the state press agency Venpres which quoted a source linked to the opposition. DATOS is believed to be friendly towards the opposition. The results of the poll, which was requested by the opposition, were not released to the public. These facts of Chávez succeeding in the polls not being released displays the opposition’s attempts to hide his potential success.

The vast difference in results discovered by different polling groups can be seen when these numbers are contrasted with those realeased by Datanálisis. Datanálisis, in its June Report gives YES 57 % and NO 43 % while it warned that Chávez had been improving the level of response towards his mandate. It concluded that the opposition had greater possibilities of winning the recall. The Datanálisis numbers were highly publicized by the Venezuelan mainstream media, most of which openly opposes the government. In addition, their main clients are those in favor of the opposition.

Once the opposition realized that there was conflicting information in the polls, most notably the lead by Chávez, Venezuelanalysis.com reported that an emergency meeting was called to be held at the headquarters of the main stream media itself, Globovision TV. Those present included representatives of all mainstream commercial TV stations, Globovisión, RCTV, Televen, Venevision, and CMT. It is important to note that these stations control all of the information being released on the mainstream media outlets. While this may not have an affect on the barrio dwellers of Venezuela, since they have already grown to distrust the commercial media, this information can still have repercussions for those international recipients.

A potentially dangerous consequence of publishing polls that show Chavez losing the referendum in international press is if foreign countries expect him to lose, when he wins, the opposition will have the opportunity to claim that the entire electoral process was fradulent. This means even if Chavez wins the referendum vote, the opposition will have a way to discredit the results. As the date of the vote, August 15th grows closer and Chavez´s success increases in the polls, the opposition will look for ways to win at all costs.

In the end, the results of these published polls with a grain of salt. Since there is so much going on inconjunction between the opposition, the mainstream media stations and the polling groups, it is difficult to take anything reported as a public poll figure very seriously. However, at the same time it could be considered worthwhile to take note of the contradictions in the polls and if Chávez continues to be presented as losing the referendum it could be because the international community is actually bracing themselves for his victory and their subsequent action to find a way to take over regardless.

Related post facto posts:  Presidential Recall Referendum Results and  Exit polls.