I am still trying to make sense of the most recent poll by
Datanalisis. All I have seen is
what El Universal published yesterday, but the message as far as the data
available there seems to be that the Venezuelan electorate is looking for
someone and has yet to find it.
It certainly does not give much comfort to see that when
people are asked whether they are pro-Government, opposition or neither, 27.6%
still say they are pro-Chavez, only 18.7% say they are pro-opposition and a
huge 46% of the people polled say they are neither. And if I am reading the
poll correctly, the people in this 46% later prove they are neither in their
answers to other questions.
Some may be happy about the fact that Chavez’ popularity has
never been as low as the current level since 2003, when it reached 23.6%, but
lately I have been unnerved by the oppositions cavalier assumption that they
will be the recipients of Chavez’ loss of popularity and the numbers seem to
bear me out.
Because the opposition has barely gone up either at a scant
18.7% of the popular support (7.7% did not answer) and when one examines the
other questions presented by El Universal, it is clear that those in the middle
support neither and while they disagree with Chavez’ positions, they also
disagree with what some may consider to be anti-Chavez positions, to wit:
—When asked whether they agreed with a socialist
educational system, 66.4% of those that support neither side said they were
against it, a clearly anti-Government position. But when the same group was
asked whether they thought the Venezuelan Government collaborated with the
FARC, 61% of those that support neither side disagreed with this, clearly
showing a position much different than what many in the opposition believe,
showing that the Government’s explanations have satisfied many. In fact, 24% of
those that consider themselves opposition believe that Chavez’ Government has
not collaborated with the FARC.
—Similarly, a full 28.6% of those that support neither
side would agree with shutting down Globovision, something people in the
opposition would abhor. At the same time Chavez can’t feel great about the fact
that 76.4% of those that support neither side do not believe the FARC should be
recognized as a political movement and not as a terrorist group.
Thus, people seem to be looking for leadership and while
rejection to Chavez’ is stronger, it is no sure bet that they ill automatically
turn over their preference to the opposition candidates as many seem to think.
Perhaps the only comforting number in the whole poll is that
a full 30% of the people blame Chavez for our current problems and barely 5%
blame the opposition.
In looking at all these numbers one has to remember that not
only did Chavez lose the December referendum, but during the first four months
of the year he has brought about a new and more conservative economic policy
where growth has been sacrificed in order to contain inflation. Clearly, this
policy can not be very popular and it seems it would be a given that Government
spending will increase sharply in the second half of the year. With oil (WTI)
flirting with US$ 130 a barrel, Chavez certainly has the ability to generate a
lot of positive goodwill among the voters.
It happened in 2003 and it may certainly happen again
particularly if the opposition minimizes the ability of Chavez and his
Government to turn his popularity around.