The Numbers in Venezuela

First and foremost, there are the presidential recall referendum numbers.  Currently, with 94.9% of the votes counted, the SI vote gets 42% and the NO vote gets 58%.  The opposition cries "Fraud!" because their exit polls show that the SI vote should get 60% and the NO vote only 40%, which is a mirror image.  The exit polls were conducted by Súmate, which has a checkered history with respect to quality and implementation (see previous post).  

But these are not the numbers of this post.

Rather, I want to discuss the implications of the Súmate exit poll numbers.  As in many Latin American countries, Venezuela sees a vast inequality between rich and poor (see, for example, BBC).  The opposition will attempt to say that there are no rich or poor Venezuelans, because there are only Venezuelans.  That is an insult to people's intelligence.  It is estimated that the lower class constitute 80% of the population while the middle- and upper-classes form 20% of the population.

Taking advantage of the rise in petroleum prices, President Hugo Chávez has been pouring resources into programs for the masses (see previous post), such as the Barrio Adentro program to provide medical care.  No matter if this is called pork barrel vote-buying politics or not, the poor people are the ones who benefit from these programs.

In order for the SI vote to attain 60%, the following has to happen:

Then 20% x 1.00 + 80% x 0.50 = 20% + 40% = 60%.

This requires that half of the poor people must vote against their own interests wherein they may lose their medical/healthcare programs, their discounted food, their literacy programs, and so on, and then return to the pre-Chávez days when nobody cared about them for 40 years.

The alternative scenario in which the SI vote receives only 40% of the vote is this:

Then 20% x 1.00 + 80% x 0.25 = 20% + 20% = 40%.

This is a lot more realistic.

Now, as long as the opposition does not grasp these ideas, they will be stuck in a cycle of repeated losses.  Numerically, the upper- and middle-classes are the minority and they will alway lost a one-person, one-vote democratic election.  Their only hope is to align the interests of the poor with theirs, even if that means having to outflank Chávez on matters such as medical services, employment, food subsidies, etc.  To continue to complain about electoral fraud is going to dig an even deeper hole.

From the Miami Herald:

But to its detriment, the opposition to Chávez has yet to posit an alternative. And Aníbal Pérez-Lińán, a professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, said the opposition has played into Chávez's hands.

''If the opposition had just waited and planned for the long run, the Chávez administration would have buried itself,'' he said. "Their ceaseless attempts to dethrone Chávez has helped him. He's much better when he's in a confrontation, because he's much more charismatic.''

Pérez-Lińán says the opposition needs to rethink its approach. ''If opposition leaders display a sharp learning curve, they may realize that they need a long-term strategy to regain votes,'' he said. "If they keep focusing on the short run, they're not going to be successful.''

It's not clear whether the opposition will take Pérez-Lińán's advice. Former President Jimmy Carter, who has been closely monitoring Venezuela's situation for several years now, has complained of the opposition's inability to recognize when it is defeated.

A more detailed illustration comes from this previous post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, if Súmate was unable to conduct exit polls in barrios such as Libertador and Sucre, their results would be very wrong (note: the weighted averages in Baruta, Chacao and El Hatillo are 63% to keep Chavez out and 18% to keep him in).

To guarantee that you get the 'right' results, you must convince the people in Libertador and Sucre to vote for you.  Every time that you cry "Fraud!" when you lose another around, you are insulting their intelligence, and you will keep on losing.

Related posts:  Presidential Recall Referendum ResultsOpinion polls and Exit polls.