Pollsters in Venezuela started doing their job this year following the same methodology they used in a dozen of previous election during Hugo Chavez’s rule. But this is not the same political situation and certainly it is not drawing the same scenarios.
For those in several opposition parties who want candidate Henrique Capriles to win fast and furiously, pollster are wrong and manipulated and Capriles cannot lose. For those in radical government groups, Chavez has no contender at all. They are the same groups that have denied trends and numbers from polls in many other elections before, accusing them of fraud.
Denial is a serious thing and the concept of “political wariness” is not known in Venezuela.
Two huge marches showed in February that the Government and the opposition can confront each other on the streets with equivalent forces. But there are almost 19 million voters registered at the National Electoral Council and only a few million people able to walk several kilometers or wait hours and hours for their leader waving flags, standing under a blazing sun or wearing a party T-shirt.
There are millions of people who will vote in the October 7th election without having been activists of any party in the recent months and other millions who will not vote at all.
Meanwhile, pollsters are trying to figure out what is passing through the minds of voters. They have shown different pictures so far and they have kept precious information away from journalists, politicians and radicals. Why is it? Because many journalists are not accurate, many politicians manipulate and many radicals do not want to understand.
And, of course, because politics became a black and white battle in Venezuela, with no color gray, a situation exacerbated by Chavez´s illness and a certain possibility of a succession or an open election.
And if the information became a secret, everybody will vote blindly.
Reasons to hide
Venezuelan firm Datanalisis, very respected among serious politicians and technocrats, has completed five opinion surveys since the opposition primaries in February. What Datanalisis´s trend shows is a strong Chavez gaining intention to vote in the last months to reach a peak and start a slow decline. During the same period, Capriles inflated, deflated and then started attracting voters, slowly closing the gap.
Many people want to know now what will happen on October 7th. They cannot remember that Chavez was not the favorite at all to win elections in 1998 and trends changed a few months before voting. So irreversibility is a tough word right now. I would not pronounce it.
Consultores 21, another respected and very well known firm, said in March that Chavez and Capriles were separated by only six points. The firm said later, in June, that there is a “technical dead heat”. That revelation sketched the “win” word in the face of many opposition activists who do not believe in constructing a victory or battling for it.
Hinterlaces, a firm recognized for its focus groups, became an unreliable pollster since his vehement president started being interviewed on a monthly basis by a state owned television channel. An unforgivable mistake for Chavez´s opponents.
GIS XXI, a firm managed by a former minister, has never said before that the opposition would win. And the opposition won a constitutional referendum in 2007 and obtained 51 percent of total votes in parliamentary election in 2010. This minister has always been a technocrat, very well prepared and worked in several ministries. His survey is the biggest with more than 7.000 people consulted and his speech has tried to be balanced, but nobody among the opposition pay attention.
Along the way, a dozen pollsters have appeared, trying to become famous and notorious. They have mixed with respectable firms, creating confusion about the numbers.
What will a voter do in this pandemonium?