Sunday, October 22, 2006

Doing well, and feeling good about it 

There is lots of bad polling information this weekend for the Venezuelan opposition. A lot of it was neatly summarized by the Maracaibo based Panorama newspaper in the following graphic.

On the left side of the graphic they give polling data from a firm, Cifras Escenarios, C.A. which I have never heard of before. Given that, these numbers need to be looked at with at least a little skepticism. With that in mind what they show is:

Chavez would get 58.8% of the vote if the elections were today with Rosales only getting 22% and Rausseo less than 1%. Those numbers don’t seem to be that out of line with what other polls have shown.

Two other parts of the poll are interesting. In one they asked people if they liked the “Message of Love” advertising theme that Chavez has been using recently. 76.7% said they liked it, versus only 21.2% who didn’t like it, which really doesn’t surprise me. As I have said before, I think it gives a clear and effective message.

The next part is that when asked who they THINK will win the election 67.4% said Chavez and only 17% Rosales. That is, even many people who support Rosales recognize he won’t win. This is an important and good development as the more people recognize going in that Chavez is going to win the harder it will be for the opposition leadership to assert their “fraud” claims after the election.

On the right hand side of the graphic we get polling information from a completely different firm – Consultores 21 which is a well known and long established polling firm in Venezuela. They have some even more interesting results.

First, when it comes to who people will vote for 50.3% say Chavez, 32.9% Rosales, and 3.8% Rausseo. Clearly they found people to be somewhat less pro-Chavez than the other polling firm but he still had a big and insurmountable lead.

What is really interesting though is when they asked people about the general state of the country and how they feel about their own personal situation. What they did was compare peoples feelings this past September with how they felt in June 2004, not long before the Recall Referendum (which it should be remembered, Chavez handily won). First they found that in June 2004 9% more people were pessimistic than optimistic but by September 06 it changed to 13% more people are optimistic than pessimistic. So that is certainly a big plus for Chavez.

But it gets better. In June 2004 only 49% said their personal situation was good and now in September 2006 61% said it was good. In 2004 69% were optimistic about the future and that has now increased a bit to 70%. When asked if they were better off than they were a year ago in June 2004 only 46% said yes while now 59% said they were better off. So people feel good about their own personal situation and are even more optimistic that it will get even better in the future.

When asked about the country’s condition in 2004 40% said the country was in good shape while now 56% say it is in good shape. In 2004 57% said things would get better for the country and that has now gone up to 61%. And asked if the country was better off now than a year ago 39% said yes in 2004 while in September 2006 55% said it was.

These results are very consistent with previously published polls that show most Venezuelans are happy with their own personal situation and with the country’s situation.

This is very important to keep in mind because what opposition propaganda and even a lot of the international press has portrayed is that somehow Venezuelans are somehow dissatisfied with their government. They do this by just using selective polling questions on topic such as crime or housing where people may not be happy with the present government. They then use that to portray generalized dissatisfaction and then talk about how Chavez remains popular “despite” that.

A prime example would be this from the Ottawa Citizen:

The Chavez campaign may also fear their candidate's vulnerabilities on issues such as crime, inefficiency and corruption. Mr. Chavez has held his own against these weaknesses, basing his popularity largely on the missions, his persona, and his promises of truly revolutionary changes in the lives of the poor. He remains atop all polls, but the opposition seems to be betting that these vulnerabilities, plus the fear of radical changes once the love subsides, may persuade undecided voters to join their camp.
"Chavez is vulnerable," argues Michael Shifter, a policy analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "Polls shows lots of dissatisfaction. He puts his finger on the problems, but can't find effective solutions."

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The country is in good shape and is getting better. That is reflected in this polling data. When people are asked how they feel OVERALL about the state of the country and their own personal situation they clearly indicate they feel good about things and are optimistic. That is what years of a booming economy, massive public works projects, and highly successful social programs will do for you.


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