Sunday, September 09, 2012

Venezuela's electoral numbers 2012: 4- September forecast

And thus we have reached the last stretch, that deadly one month mark where elections are either dead set or where spectacular implosions appear. Both are possible though serious polls at this time reveal either an even race, or a Chavez ahead but Capriles closing the gap at a good pace.

Thursday night on TV there was Christian Burgazzi who was discussing analysis on polls and historical trends. In his opinion the victory of Capriles is almost a given, by 900,000, and he is willing to accept the only trend based analysis of de Silva that gives him as much as a million votes.


I am on record for two things already: on August 24 I gave Capriles the winner. And on September 4 I wrote that the margin of victory depended on the chavista abstention more than any new ability of Capriles to pry further away at Chavez base. So one month before the vote I should complete the detail of my model and differentiate with the other guys (all published together, including YVpolis, the poll slayer).

First a caveat. Those people mentioned above work on that for a living or at least have help or something to figure out their numbers. Not to mention a training for statistics. I do not. I need to work for a living and I can only spend a few hours on electoral number crunching, the more so that it has been months since I have balanced my check book last. Also, I have given up poll analysis long ago except for their trend value (if polls is your thing, go to YVpolis). This is a handicap as it forces me to be conservative, very conservative with my estimates and guess work. The only way I can compensate is relying on my historical knowledge of elections, a little bit of electoral psychology, but mostly on trying to figure out what happens at the local level which maybe my best selling card (not that anyone is willing to pay for my results, no matter how successful I have been recently in my predictions, but I digress…).

All of this being said, there is my final prediction. It does not change from August, I am giving Capriles winning, I am just refining the scenario.

I see two scenarios at this point. The difference between them is strictly due to how successful will Chavez be at rallying his troops in the end. That is, how many of his followers will chose to stay home. After Amuay and the clear polls indications that the Misiones of last year did not pan out as chavismo hoped for, the probability that a large chunk of his voters will stay home is real.

So, scene one, Chavez rallies, Capriles wins by less than 400,000. Scene two, Chavez peters out, his followers are mad at him but not mad enough to vote for Capriles (gratitude for Mercal?). So they punish him by staying home. Capriles wins by more than 500,000 votes. This nuance is important because if Capriles wins by 500,000 at least, chavismo will have a very hard time to cheat and deny the victory. But if Capriles wins by less than 400,000 chavismo will probably attempt a reckless adventure. Between 400 and 500? You got me there!

They key is thus the abstention number. I think we can all agree that the abstention will hurt more Chavez . The Capriles voter is decided to vote for him; and to go and do so no matter what happens until October 7. The Chavez voter is way more emotional. I mean, look at the country! You gotta be in the cult to even consider voting for him. But there is a  “jilted lover feeling” among many of his followers that can wreak havoc as late as October 7, 10 AM.

But what is the abstention potential? In the graph below I have plotted the results of national elections and local elections for Carabobo state. Why Carabobo? Because it has switched sides and came back. Because it is industrial and urban but has a significant rural/provincial component. Because chavismo has had serious inner trouble there and thus it may be a good state to use to guess at “jilted” emotions.

Trends since 2006, National and Carabobo state

Note: no abstention in 2007 as those results HAVE NEVER BEEN MADE PUBLIC IN FULL

We can observe the following.

Sometime Carabobo votes more than the country and sometimes less (the abstention dots).  But all in all it follows the national trend when available.  Interesting the biggest abstention for Carabobo was 2010 even though we can consider it a national election with all but officially Chavez on the ticket.  Thus we have there our first hint at the abstention punishment for Chavez, around a 5-7 % of chavistas that decided to stay home from 2009 to 2010.

Chavismo vote trend is going down even if it picks up occasionally. True, when the vote is clearly about Chavez (2006, 2009) it does best. When it is local it does worst. But in 2010 it was national due to the huge personal involvement of Chavez in the legislative campaign and Chavez only got a “local” vote abstention number.

Thus I can assert with all confidence that there is no way that Chavez will get more than a number of vote between what he got in 2009 and 2010 (one year and a half in between). That is, if all goes well for Chavez, the top vote he can get is around 5.8 millions, 6.3 top. But I am ready to say that he will not get less than 5.3 million no matter what: too many people blackmailed, too many people unwilling to recognize their continuous electoral mistake over the last 13 years.

That is, Chavez abstention number is as high as 500,000; the amount of chavistas that may decide to stay home.

Now, I have written in February 20, solely based on primary results and local trends, that the minimum amount of votes Capriles will get is 5.3 million with a potential of 6.3 million.  But we need to make an additional correction before we go further into his real potential,

The total of possible votes cast may not be much higher than in 2006 but for the sake of the argument let’s imagine that indeed in the kast 6 years we will get 1 million new voters, not necessarily good news for Chavez since they grew up under him and maybe itchy for change for the sake of it. After all, Chavez entourage has visibly grown old and tired whereas Capriles entourage is clearly younger. In 2006 Rosales + Chavez got 11.6 million votes.  I think this year the total will not be more than 12.6, even if we assume that indeed many in the opposition abstained on Rosales and will vote now.

So, if Chavez plus Capriles is 12.6 and Chavez top is 6.3 , does that mean Capriles has 6.3 also?

Which brings us back to my August 24 numbers. My very conservative estimates gave Chavez 5.6 and Capriles 5.7 million with a prediction for September that I now embrace of 5.5 for Chavez and 5.8 for Capriles.

How do I reconcile it all?

I think that Capriles will make it to 6 million in the last month of campaign, but I do not agree with the guys named above that he will pass that mark nor that he will led by a million votes.  What Capriles is winning are those undecided or abstentionist of 2007 and maybe 2010 that are finally moving to the opposition (you know, PPT, PODEMOS et al.) but he is not picking up vote directly from Chavez right now.

Chavez has a bottom floor of 5.3.  Already the drop I see of 100,000 since August is that abstention effect.  And he may lose another 200,000 to abstention and indeed reach that bottom.

My conclusion, being now less conservative than in August, is that the abstention in Chavez camp will give us paradoxically a total number closer than expected to the 11.6 of 2006, probably around 12, where Capriles may pass 6, the minor guys around 0.1 all together, and Chavez floating at 5.7

In short, folks, my forks, million votes

Total votes: 11.6 --- 12.4 
Capriles:  5.8 --- 6.3
Chavez: 5.5 --- 5.9
Other 0.1 --- 0.2
Capriles margin of victory: 0.3 --- 0.7
A margin of victory at best of 7% (46 to 53 with 1% for others)

Capriles good work and the opposition steady congruence since 2008 have allowed it to tie chavismo at around 5.8-6, maybe up to 6.3.  But chavismo loses that tie and drops because many inside will stay home, and that is what gives Capriles margin of victory, at least what is above 0.3

And on this stake I shall impale myself... Not that it matters whether I hit bull's eye or make an ass of myself, because after October 7 it is very unlikely that I will monitor elections this closely again, whomever wins. But that is another story.

NOTE: since there is a month left of campaign I reserve the right to modify these forks. Unless some major disaster happens, Capriles is winning, that will not change, I would just play with the forks.


  1. Anonymous12:25 PM

    It actually does matter if you make an ass of yourself here, because the factors leading you to this final prediction are the same factors which broadly determine your reliability as a political commentator.

    In other words, if Chavez wins with his customary >60%, it will mean that you have catastrophically misread the political landscape in Venezuela. It will mean you have a grossly distorted perception of reality on a wide range of significant issues relating to the popularity of the president.

    1. Eva, is that you?

    2. I never cease to be impressed by the bitterness of such comments, where the authors are never able to even assume a fake identity, and certainly not to bring an idea, a comment, even a link to another site debunking my texts. Don't you ever get tired of comment bombing? Why did you not leave a comment in, say, this post:

    3. Chiguire

      Eva has long ago understood this revolution very well. She dropped by the cashiers office and now she even has her TV stunt, apartment, wardrobe, etc, etc... And probably keeps dropping at the revolutionary cashier which leaves her with too little time to drop bomb bloggers. She is a revolutionary success alright.

    4. Anonymous7:28 AM

      Being evasive, Daniel? I mean everyone can decide independently whether or not you're full of sh*t, but surely getting this prediction massively wrong would be a grave indictment.

      Simply put, to entirely misread a national scenario means you are misreading the vital components of the scenario. So to try and cover your ass by saying that being wrong doesn't matter is a bit disingenuous.

    5. And where are your correct predictions? I have at least a track record of correct predictions in 2008 and 2010. Thus, even if I were to fail miserably with this one I still would not be totally discredited.

      As for evasiveness from someone signing anonymous and evading his own bitterness...

    6. Anonymous11:35 PM

      Presidential elections in Venezuela are by far the easiest elections to predict. Such elections during the past 13 years have been remarkably consistent.

      I remember doing the rounds of opposition blogs back in 2006, and this all feels remarkably similar. Highly optimistic but with nothing substantial backing it up. Ignoring the majority of polls which tell us the spread hasn't changed. Honestly believing that isolated accidents have any bearing at all on voters after 13 long years.

      I'll be back on the 8th of next month to tell you in more detail why you messed up so badly.

    7. Whoa! What courage! An anonymous Anonymous will not bother giving us his reasoning but will come back as Anonymous on October 8 to tell me why i was wrong.

      Oh! But from blog reading in 2006 he infers that 6 years went by without any effect... Never mind that this blog in 2006 said that Rosales was going to lose. Never mind he predicted in a BBC piece what would happen in a second chavez term. Some reading you did.

      Brother! Another searing example of chavista intellectualism. I am cowering!

  2. Island Canuck6:02 PM

    The question here is - When Capriles wins handily are you going to come back and admit that the Venezuelan people no longer have the patience or desire for another 6 years of Cuban Chavismo?

    I will bet that "Anonymous" and all his buddies will be nowhere in sight when O8 arrives.

    I'm also not so conservative as Daniel. I firmly believe that the vote count will be higher for Capriles.
    As an example a friend from the local pueblo went to the mayor's office (Chavista) on Friday for some documents & was immediately confronted by red shirted members of the PSUV asking her if she was registered in various programs & missions. The indicated that the mayor would be handing out bonuses to people in need & that they would pick her up on voting day to take her to the polling station. They asked her numerous tiomes if she would be voting for Chavez. She, of course, agreed that she would.

    She will be voting for Capriles as will all her family & relatives.

    The Chavista vote this time around is a cloud of smoke. The people will be voting for change.

  3. Anonymous7:50 PM

    You are still betting in turnout around 65%, that is not easy to digest. You are talking about an presidential election where the turnout would be the same as 2007. That's hard to believe..! In 2006 turnout was around 75% and I believe this will be the number for this election, I think at least 14 millions will vote. Capriles would need 7 millions in that scenery, have you done the excercise taking into account a turnout between 70% and 75% which is likely to happen (I think in this point all pollster agree, so, it's not only "my opinion").

    SOrry about my english

    1. My working hypothesis is a lower turnout than in 2006. That is, more votes, 1 million more but less participation overall. As such what is the point for me to consider higher participation, or at least one equal to 2006?

      My political starting point is that more disgruntled chavistas will punish chavez by staying home than going to vote for Capriles outright. That is my model and I understand the other models based on trends alone and polls. But I do not share their premises because they assume that the chavista that voted for Chavez 14 years can for Capriles as if nothing, as it could happen in a normal democracy. We are in a dictatorship and that fact affects a large chunk of the population in emotional ways hard to measure through polls.

      Anyway, in less than a month we'll see who's right.

  4. galloglass8:53 PM

    Daniel, I think your analysis is spot-on, but Capriles could win by 2,000,000 votes (you can invent any number) and Chavez would not cede power.

    1. Well, that is another story altogether. In future posts.

      But it is important to establish a benchmark of sorts, the magnitude of the cheating Chavez needs to do. It is all about records, the only way to obtain a punishment some day.

  5. Nelson12:35 AM

    I firmly believe we'll have the best chance if we get a huge, cordonazo de San Francisco style, rainstorm. Rain always triggers abstention: if you have to take care of your almost falling house the least you'll care is on voting. It might sound mean, but if we get that much rain i'll call the election for capriles for sure.. Saludos

  6. Daniel, I'm banking on your prediction, based on cautious conservatism. Though, of course, I'm hoping for a higher vote differential for Capriles.

    Meanwhile... may I suggest that you avoid impalement on forks by eating from now on with blunt-ended wooden chopsticks?

    1. Pitch forks, Syd, pitch forks......

  7. Anonymous4:50 PM

    I hope you are right, Daniel, and that sense can re-enter Venezuela with Capriles. Also hoping that Capriles and supporters can unite all the people to build a better country for all, learning from all past mistakes. Pollyana maybe, but she was happy!

  8. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Ok here are some thoughts. Sure the opposition is in better shape to win this time. However, you are taking quite a few things for granted and all of them seem to be working for Capriles.

    1. Abstention is never a given. It can be high, it can be low. Since there is no data on abstention, noone can be sure about it. And even if there was any data, abstention is tricky to measure.

    2. Regarding abstention again. True, it will mostly hurt Chavez. After all, he is the one with the most voters to lose due to indifference. Also, it is a given that usually it is the government that gets its supporters disenchanted, not the opposition. However, don't you think that there is a possibility that those quite high abstention figures you are predicting can prove to be highly damaging for Capriles as well? Isn't there a possibility that this extra 10% you are predicting are actually votes that Capriles needs to get ahead?

    3. Polling in Venezuela tends to be partisan and disastrous and for those reasons few people actually trust polls. As a result, the only thing that can dissapoint or fire up the base of a political party is the general climate. This climate has been neither in favor of Capriles nor against him. This means that sure, his base will come out alright but it also means that Chavez supporters will come out as well.

    4. Anyway, if you are so sure about your analysis, bet on They have Chavez as a 90% favorite, so you got a chance to make money.


Comments policy:

1) Comments are moderated after the sixth day of publication. It may take up to a day or two for your note to appear then.

2) Your post will appear if you follow the basic polite rules of discourse. I will be ruthless in erasing, as well as those who replied to any off rule comment.