Monday, August 28, 2006

The first polls in Venezuela since Rosales became the unity candidate

OK, now that I have got your attention, it is not true, no comprehensive poll on the Rosales effect can be published yet as the ground work could only have started less than two weeks ago. However the evidence that Rosales is already giving headaches to chavismo can be sensed.

Keller speaks

Readers of this blog know that Alfredo Keller is the only current Venezuelan pollster that I credit: he has solid numbers and does not try to have his numbers say more than what they say. He is also keenly aware that since 2004 Venezuela is a very difficult country to poll for political elements. Too many people are afraid of the Tascon list, too many people are afraid of losing their little government benefit that they just cannot trust pollsters, preferring to support Chavez rather than having their real intentions be revealed to the local chavista boss. Or how can we explain that Chavez gets 60, 70, 80% while his administration institutions (his too) get a general failing grade?

Keller is aware of that and does not pretend to have a methodology to deal completely with this problem. Rather he tries to focus on tendencies.

Today he gave a short interview to El Universal where he says that no, he has no poll yet, that he is only working on focus group. Focus groups are what you use to create workable polls, in particular in Venezuela where the wording of the question is essential if you want to figure out if a given chavista is as hard core chavista as he would like you to believe.

But he says that there is a Rosales effect, that he is clearly perceived that he is the unity candidate no matter what other guys claim, that the race is clearly between Chavez and Rosales and that Chavez does not have the wind with him (even if he is still leading). In fact he goes further and states that the hard core Rosales vote is probably at least as high as the hard core chavista vote and that the rest of Chavez support is much softer and could erode fast with a good campaign.

Any truth of a weakening Chavez?

Plenty of it. It started early this week with the infamous Barreto act. The MVR actually seems to have decided to leave Barreto alone, waiting for Chavez to come back from Malaysia. This could actually be read as Chavez party already realizing that they should push much harder against Chavez as what they originally planned.

There was also an interview in El Nacional of Ameliach, the Chavez campaign director. He insisted elaborately in trying to dispel the “myth” that Rosales is the only opposition candidate. And he officially recognized that the famous 10 million votes sought will now not be more than 8. Lame excuses were offered such as the CNE not recruiting enough electors. But he said that no matter what, Chavez will get twice as many votes as the second running oppo candidate.

But that was not all from Ameliach. In an elaborate press conference today he attacked how sneaky was an add of Rosales and how it seemed that this one was using the resources of Zulia state for his campaign. This is of course hilarious as for any Rosales “fault” this blogger could report at least 10 Chavez fault, starting with the nightly mini cadena we are subjected every night since Chavez went on vacation in Asia. Rosales people laughed it off.

This is enough for me to infer that the pollsters of chavismo are not reporting good news (they do have some serious one working for them of course, they just do not report their result unless convenient). To add insult to injury, Leopoldo Lopez and Liliana Hernandez dared to brave some Caracas slums where they seemed to have been received better than anyone would have expected. Amusing, no? The more so that they walked in the strongholds of Gramoven...

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