Several news outlets published the numbers from leading Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis two weeks ago, the day after their private June Omnibus poll came out. So the poll’s basic tendencies are well known. Here I am going to dig into the numbers a little further to see what we can find about the sources of Hugo Chávez’s (HCF) strength with the electorate and the reasons for Henrique Capriles Radonski’s (HCR) lagging campaign.
Datanalisis’ June Omnibus (which is really based on fieldwork from the last week of May) showed the electoral race to be largely unchanged. HCR went up two points from 25.9% in April to 27.7% in May, while HCF increased a half point from 42.9% to 43.6%. Given that the margin of error is 2.7% these percentages should be considered unchanged from Datanalisis’ April numbers.
Datanalisis did an update flash poll after the candidate enrollments in early-June. This is important because many opposition commentators saw this as a breakout moment for HCR, given the considerable mobilization of people. As it used a smaller sample it has a slightly higher margin of error (3.7%). It showed HCF with 42.6% and HCR with 28.8%. Adjusted for the probable direction of undecided votes leads to HCF at 44.4% and HCR at 30.2%. Here as well, given the margin of error, this flash poll does not show movement in favor of either candidate.
Digging deeper into the poll there is more bad news for HCR. Underlining some of the problems Capriles’ campaign has had getting its message out, less than half of respondents had heard of HCR’s “Jobs for Everyone” program. Interestingly, of those who had heard of it, over half of government supporters say it is a good plan and less than thirty percent disagree with it. Over 80% of the “Ni Nis” (those who support neither the Chávez government nor the opposition) agree with it.
But probably the biggest problem for HCR is not his campaign but the popularity of HCF. Chávez’s popularity, in this poll at 62.4%, has resurged in the past six months, reaching levels not seen since the closing of RCTV in 2007. Partly accounting for this resurgence is the significant movement among Ni Nis in the past six months. While at the end of 2011 Ni Nis were evenly split in their positive or negative evaluation of HCF, these trends have progressively bifurcated. Now HCF has 57.9% support among Ni Nis and a 33.4% disapproval rating.
HCR, in contrast, has 45.6% approval rate in his “work for the country.” This has, like the intended vote, actually declined five points since shortly after the primaries. This, of course has corresponded with a decline in identification with opposition parties from close to 30% at the time of the legislative elections to 21.5% now.
Here again, much of this appears to be based on economics with “personal situation” receiving an 81.9% positive response. This is higher than at any time since 2007. Over the years, positive perception of personal situation has a positive .821 correlation with HCF’s approval levels (in other words, when one goes up so does the other).
Also worrying for the HCR campaign are respondent perceptions of the parties. The PSUV approval level is currently at 56.8% while opposition parties’ collective approval level has descended to 36.6%. This twenty-point spread is quite a dramatic change over the past 20 months. At the time of the legislative elections in September 2010, the opposition parties were favored by 5 points or more. A year ago the parties were tied. In the past year, however, they have progressively diverged.
Identification with parties has likewise diverged. While in September 2010 identification with government and opposition parties was roughly equal in the mid-20s, now the PSUV leads 35.2% to 12%. It is not at all clear to me what explains this trend, given the MUD’s successful primaries campaign and electoral event, and I haven’t heard any analysis. It could well simply be a reflection of the increase in Chavez popularity. But I will be keeping an eye on this, keep trying to understand it, and hopefully provide commentary on it in the future.
Datanalisis also calculates “party articulation” (basically whether people identify with the party of the presidential option they support). This shows the government with 93.9% articulation and the opposition with 55.8%. This could have a significant impact on mobilization of the vote.
Probably the only good news for HCR in these numbers is the fact that 28.7% of the voters are still undecided. But to catch-up with Chávez with undecided voters Capriles would have to get the vote of four out of five of them.
One potential weak point in the government’s electoral support is that fully two-thirds of the population believes that HCF is cured or will be cured. The number of people who think his sickness will impact the campaign has increased slightly, but still about half of the population thinks that Chávez’s sickness will not affect his ability to govern if he is reelected. Thus if HCF’s health were to rapidly deteriorate in a clear and undeniable way, these numbers could move. Furthermore, much of HCF’s surge comes from Ni Nis which, by definition, must be considered “soft”support and could be seriously influenced by failing health of the candidate
Tomorrow I will post an analysis of the numbers from another leading polling firm Consultores 21, and try to figure out why they are so different from those provided by Datanalisis.