Monday, November 12, 2007

If they would stop throwing rocks long enough to campaign... 

Just when I was bitching about the lack of polling data on the constitutional reform I managed to dig some up. Keller and Associates, a hard line opposition polling firm, did an extensive study last month that can be found here.

I wouldn't say Keller is the most reliable firm - both they the other hard line polling firm Hinterlaces have always struck me as bending over backwards to give the most favorable scenario for the opposition. But even if they do looking at their numbers can be interesting, keeping in mind that they are probably the most favorable numbers for the opposition that exist. [Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the slides - if you want to see better copies go to the actual presentation]

This slide shows how support for Chavez, the opposition, and neither have trended over the past year. Chavez of course has been consistently ahead. However, according to this his support slid some in this past quarter.

What happened in the past quarter that would make his support slide I don't know. The controversial RCTV shutdown happened in the second quarter for example.

What is also interesting to note is that the slight decline support for Chavez hasn't translated into higher support for the opposition. Instead, the group that increased were the "nuetrals" who support niether the opposition nor Chavez.

In other words maybe Chavez's hubris has turned some people off lately. Yet they look at the rock throwing opposition and blanch. So they choose niether. Makes sense.

This slide shows Chavez's support in relation to the support of the opposition over the last 5 years. Predictably Chavez is red, the opposition blue.

And as we know although Chavez may have been unpopular (barely) in 2002 the opposition self destructed with its coup attempts and oil strikes allowing Chavez to once again assume the lead, which he has never relinquished.

Interestingly the opposition has managed to recover its support somewhat over the past couple of years. I suspect that results from people's memories of the coup and oil strike fading. Also, the maturity the opposition showed in finally accepting an electoral defeat probably boosted their stature in some peoples eyes.

Finally, we get to what people think about the proposed reforms. On the left we see how people would vote if the vote were today with 41% saying they would vote for it to 35% saying they would vote against it. That is only a 6% margin - not all that much, especially for a constitutional reform which at least in theory you would like to see more of a mandate for. Further, a full 20% are still undecided meaning even without changing the minds of any of the people currently in favor of it the NO option can still win.

On the right, you see sample of what most of the rest of the poll is like - asking people hopelessly loaded and leading questions. The one in this case asks "If it was shown that this reform was only to keep Chavez in power, eliminate private property, eliminate states and munincipal governments, and hand the education of childrend over to the government would you vote yes or no".

Jeez, I wonder if Gallup will go around asking people in the U.S. "Who will you vote for Hillary Clinton, who will provide health care for all, or Rudy Guiliani, who will likely start a war with the entire muslim world". If such questions are of interest to you again feel free to check out the whole presentation.

Summing up, it is clear Chavez is still popular, significantly more popular than his opponents. It appears that that popularity will allow these reforms to pass.

However it is also clear that victory is still up for grabs and that for the first time in years the opposition has a fighting chance to win an actual vote. Of course, they would have to run an organized, well thought out, principled, and inclusive campiagn - not something they've been noted for in the past. Still there is hope for them and hope for all of us who think these proposals should be defeated.

Still, there is little margin for error on the part of the "NO" campaign. And doing stupid things like throwing rocks at people and setting buildings on fire isn't going to get it done.

So to our opposition friends, put down the rocks, leave the hatred aside, and speak to people. You can win but you have to do three things - persuade, persuade and persuade.

Do you have it in you to talk and persuade, or only to throw rocks and hate? What happens on December 2nd will likely turn on the answer to that question.


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