Fun with numbers, Datanálisis style

Your no-BS breakdown on the latest Datanalisis poll, which is basically quantified doom-and-gloom.

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A new Datanálisis poll came out, and its numbers are surprising. Before we get into it though, let me warn the Datanálisis-haters in the crowd who will scoff at this poll and at my comments about it: You will probably finish reading this post with a general sense of indigestion, because the picture it paints is not pretty. 

But before you decide to stop reading this right now, consider, at least, the merits of informing yourself on the opinion of us, the not-so-optimistic.

In my view, Datanálisis is, by far, the most professional, least-politicized pollster in Venezuela. Not only does it boast the cleanest prediction record of all, it is also the least likely to reflect the many vices and insecurities of the opposition’s political elite. Namely, (1) that everyone who hates the government must, by default, love Them and (2) that everyone hates the government.

So this is the pulse of the country as of February 2016. Let’s begin with the bad news: Maduro has 33,1% popular support. That, for the record, is considerably higher than Dilma’s somewhat-understandable 11% and Juan Manuel Santos’ way-more-perplexing 24%. This in a context of unspeakable economic backwardness, plummeting purchasing power and shrinking welfare benefits, as well as what could amount to an impending humanitarian crisis due to food shortages. Post-it to political economists out there: demagoguery and political attrition often trumps welfare and purchasing power.

The other big baddie out there is that only 38,9% of the country is comfortable with self-identifying as an “Opositor” (PSUV: 32,8%; Independents: 26,2%). Worse still, when asked “which party do you support?,” only 24,2% of respondents are willing to answer “the opposition.” Never mind that the opposition itself is obviously not a party, but a coalition of small-time caudillos with splintered political platforms.

Independents (also not a party) take the lion’s share of this particular query, coming in at 45,1%. In this aspect, PSUV actually trumps the opposition with 26,2% of the vote. This clearly indicates the government still commands partisan militancy better than we do, and that almost half of independents are dissatisfied with our intra-party leadership, despite considering themselves anti-government.

63,6% want him to leave office this year, which includes 98% of the self-proclaimed opposition voters, 68% of independents and 15% of PSUVistas.

Which is obviously understandable when we have three equally powerful leaders who clearly detest each other. Yes, you read that right: three leaders. Leopoldo López, Henrique Capriles and… María Corina Machado.

Please don’t bang the table: I’m joking. The third leader is Henry Ramos Allup (MCM, as Datanálisis president Luis Vicente León told me this January, still polls below 2%). He actually fares marginally better than LL and HCR in the poll: 50% versus 47,8% and 47%, respectively. This is largely due to Henry Ramos enjoying more support among independents than is the case for the other two (43% for HRA, versus roughly 33-35% each for Leopoldo and Henrique).

Some might see this as a positive: there’s no denying that Henry is, in many ways, a better and wiser communicator than LL and HCR. He’s also become a vicarious escape valve for our daily frustrations and low self esteem, as he lampoons the President and Diosdado on national television, dishing it out better than anyone. Yet by diluting what is already a contest of multiple egos, his sudden celebrity status within the opposition leadership can only harm our expectation that a solid plan out of this mess will happen soon. Let’s not forget that  Henry, HCR and LL all have divergent projects for getting rid of Maduro (i.e.: enmienda, revocatorio or constituyente).

This is particularly obnoxious when you consider that, even though Maduro has a staunch third of the population backing him, the remaining two thirds of the country cannot wait to see him go. 63,6% want him to leave office this year, which includes 98% of the self-proclaimed opposition voters, 68% of independents and 15% of PSUVistas.

Although 96,1% of independents percieve our current situation as negative, and 69% want Maduro to leave in 2016, only 39% think positively of the MUD.

Pause for a second and consider this: if there is one concrete policy that the opposition should unequivocally agree upon as a coalition, which it generally doesn’t, it is that of dismantling the Chavista establishment. Our very name suggests as much. Yet even though 63,6% of the country urgently wants precisely this, we still only enfranchise two thirds of it. Which is to say: la tenemos bombita but we still fail spectaularly at the bat.

With all this in mind we might be able to understand the most seemingly incongruous result from the poll: a whooping 90,9% of the population believes the “situation of the country” to be negative. What’s more: 56,6% thinks it to be actually “very negative.” Only 25% of PSUVistas,and less than 4% of independents and opposition voters, think the situation is in any way “positive.”

So that’s one thing the whole country agrees on: things are turning from bad to worse with every passing day.

The obvious question is: how is it that Maduro still has 30% support? The most intuitive answer is that, some way, somehow, the whole government spewed “Economic War” rhetoric seems to be working. Yet this is only partly true, for it accounts only for those Chavistas who think negatively of our present situation but still support Maduro. A much sexier analysis involved the independents: though 96,1% perceive our current situation as negative, and 69% want Maduro to leave in 2016, only 39% think positively of the MUD. That means there is a gap of at least 30% and at most 60% of independents (roughly 15-30% of the whole population) who might not believe a word of Chavista rhetoric but who are yet unwilling to join our side.

And that, my friends, more than a truth is a tragedy. Let it sink in: in the fastest deteriorating country in the world, one that according to textbook Political Economy should be most fertile for political change, the “saviors” are so fabulously incapable of selling their message that a big chunk of the population is willing to blame them for what is clearly not their fault.

Yet after seventeen years of infighting, bouts of political suicide (2002 coup d’etat, 2003 oil strike) and utter realpolitikal short-sightedness, can one really blame them for blaming us?

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M.A. in Economics from the University of Edinburgh. Madrid based. Wealth management, roots in banking and microfinance. Voracious reader of Classics, specially the Russians, and History. Caraqueño and Caraquista, inescapably a lover of Salsa, wheat talk and Rum. Fascinated by South America's indigestion of modernity, owes his political understanding mostly to Octavio Paz, Ivan Karamazov and dad.

40 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sorry but Venezuelans deserve what is currently happening to them. I mean Dilma only has 11% of approval even though what is happening in Brazil is way tamer (even though by world standards bad) than what is happening in Venezuela.

    • Nobody deserves what is happening in Venezuela, actually. Nobody in the world. This is not simply a statistical problem, it’s a human problem of tremendous proportions.

  2. Every time the poll discussion arises, I get totally energúmeno on the same subject: the definition of those independents. If these folks “might not believe a word of Chavista rhetoric but who are yet unwilling to join our side”, I say no amount of rationality, rebranding, message selling, or whatever is going to get them to act. These are the folks who never miss an election day at the beach.

  3. OK got it.

    Two comments:

    1. When you say “the “saviors” are so fabulously incapable of selling their message that a big chunk of the population is willing to blame them for what is clearly not their fault”. Its hard to selol a message when there is media hegemony.

    2. The first president of the Sixth Republic is going to be Henry Ramos Allup (if the sixth republic starts within 7 years).

  4. I insist, let him finish because if you revoke him now they will instantly blame the opposition for the problems (as they usually do) but people are less likely to believe if they stay in power. Let the chavistas self destruct (politically) beyond the point of recovery.

    • The thing is, Will there be a country, no. Will there be people in this country 3 years from now? The fact that the only thing in my kitchen is a single bag of flour says no.

      I prefer to have him out this year and let the ignorants speak what they want. Its like Henry himself said. Let them speak what they want and see them eat their words when they see the results.

  5. Just a bit of flash in the shadows:
    – some people may be afraid to say they support MUD (and instead say “independent”)
    – some people have their chavy-cards for food, and of course they support that
    – some dissatisfaction with MUD has been seen here on this blog, and it is not to be confused with
    “opposition to” or “disagreement with” MUD agendas (more at frustration that has not found a way around the roadblock of the so-called TSJ which declares everything “unconstitutional” like a parrot that knows only one word).

    Otherwise, I’d say the situation definitely sucks. The racehorse should have been named “Tyranny.” And if rains do not soon fill the Guri reservoir, and drinking water reservoirs … add a preventable natural disaster to the woes. It could get very bad in a hurry.

    • “some people may be afraid to say they support MUD (and instead say “independent”)”

      This is true. When i get asked, thats what i answer.

  6. Zimbabwe man, Zimbabwe.

    Maduro is our very own Mugabe. After an inflation of several million percent, a cholera epidemic, sectarian violence, corruption, personality cult and who knows what other desaster can still win elections.

    Venezuela is Zimbabwe V.2

    • Not maduro, Chavez, he’s the one who got us here, and not by putting maduro in power, Chavez is the one who pulled the trigger, maduro just has bad luck…

      If oil prices shot up to 120 again we’d be importing evian para el pueblo and eating uruguayan meat as we actually did years ago.

      We can argue that actually Ramos Allup is guilty, AD is a major part of the way politics are done in Venezuela and so forth, we are all guilty, but it was Chavez that set this whole thing up the way it is, the bolichicos, the drugs, crime, scarcity, food shortages… all of that happened before 2013.

  7. The way I read the numbers (and what I perceive on the street) is that people are sick of Maduro but consider themselves “revolutionaries”. If they throw Maduro out and present another candidate (Aristobulo, MG Chavez or similar) they will win again. Many years of leftism, ignorance and hate have permeated deeply. There is no future in Venezuela.

  8. Although it’s a bit depressing that folks still don’t want to brand themselves with the MUD, what’s important is that they vote for them in the end. People say they’ll vote for the “Independent” when said option doesn’t really exist in a meaningful way. Let’s remember the “Independent” option polled big numbers before the past AN election, then received a measly 2.7% of the vote. Let’s not forget these folks aren’t just disillusioned chavistas, a lot of them are dissatisfied with the MUD’s leadership from the right, but they end up voting for them anyway.

    Maduro’s 33% approval rating is a bit more perplexing, given the situation of the country has worsened even further. My guess is a bandwagon effect against the new AN, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  9. The problem the opposition faces is that it is trying to tear down a dictatorship using legal means. So people perceive what they are doing as pointless and is apathic to the mud to point that it can blame it for the situation.

    The goverment has the brute force to block any democratic path for change and there is no way the opposition can stop them, so it seems that the only hope of changing the situation lies within the chavismo, wether by means of unlikely goverment policy change, or that a significant part of chavismo’s power defect to the opposition.

    What the opposition has to do is to somehow defeat apathy and deliver a perfect message, something the current leadership is unable to do. Or else we will have to hope that they’ll let us win again in 2018

  10. Difficulty selling their message?

    I truly believe their message actually does effectively communicate what they actually have to say: “we don’t really know but…. um… where things really that bad before?”

    No tienen ni puta idea.

    As much talk as there is about reactionaries in Venezuela, there really still hasn’t been an effective reaction to Chavismo. A political path that is coherent and positive. Positive in the philosophical sense, as in not “nah, Idontlikeit.”

    It’s easy enough, of course, but young would-be politicians are still silly enough to think the future is with making your bones with the old guard.

    Like our own ultra-talented Emiliana. I guess it’s easier to spread someone else’s message than making your own out of raw sanity and level headedness.

    Shame on us that Capriles’ clumsy advances are the closest thing there is in Venezuela to a re-thinking of things.

      • Not complicated… Take their chosen careers seriously when theyre organizing in university and taking advantage of the situation to device policies and strategies that go beond the training in populism that student unions now are.

        When you are a young student or recent grad in vzla today you wont make enough to make a living anyway, so why not use that time to organize? The ’28 generation did it with fucking iron chains on their feet.

        • Ah. Una especie, o una formacion, de un movimiento intelectual que segiria un modelo classico de, por ejemplo, sociedades y economias democraticas? Eso si es profundo, y si traeria cambio permanente – creo yo, porque tales sociedades prosperan mucho mas que los socialistas. Yo estaba pensaando mas de este ano, 2016. (Perdoname my espanol si esta mal – nunca estudie en Venezuela, y ya hace mucho que ni hablo ni escribo – y soy muy flojo para conseguirme un “type in Spanish” programa.) La UCV me ha fascinado por anos, pero, no siendo nativo, me temo que nunca lo he ententido. Aqui en los EEUU se encuentran professores socialistas, gente que pareceria, nunca tuvieron contaco con la sociedad productiva de las industrias y commercios, y se quedan con sus “ideologias romanticas” del socialismo, la igualdad de todos en todo, y otras necedades.

          • Las ideas existen, ni si quiera es una orientacion politica definida, simplemente una serie de conocimientos e ideas existentes en la academia que caben facilmente dentro de la categoria de cordura general. El trabajo politico es ajustar esas ideas a nuestra venezuela con orgullo positivista, sin los atajos de la vieja guardia. No tiene que ser un solo movimiento de una sola tendencia, te aseguro que en 1928 los habia desde comunistas hasta neo loberales, lo que los unia era las ganas de tomar su tarea en serio. Dieron inicio a la democracia mas larga de Suramérica a punta de averiguar que funciona y no mojonearse en cuanto a su pueblo, sin confiar ni una pizca en los viejos politicos, gomezistas o menos gomezistas.

  11. There is this almost universal delusion that peoples beliefs and feelings are coherent and inherently unified , however for decades now psychologist have known about something which goes by various names but which we may call ‘cognitive dissonance’ , lots of people who unconsciously sincerely and without embarrassment hold incompatible views at the same time , views that dont fit together in any logical way .

    These polls (to the extent they are credible, which Im never sure of ) , may be an example of the above , people can hate X in a particular context and tolerate it in another context, and love it in still a third one .
    The feelings can change very rapidly depending on the timing or the circumstances in which something is played up when the judgement is made ……..

    I quite sure that people most people hate the regimes performance and corruption , because they know whom they can blame for their hardship , some of them however are still warm about Chavez and many of the recreational passions he taught them including the hatred of the middle class and what purportedly they stand for …so they would like not to hate the regimes performance but cant avoid it. they are ambivalent about somethings which the regime represents even while recognizing that its a deep failure and a dissapointment .

    Many people dont vote for the opposition because they are hard brass oppos but because they are angry at the regime while at the same time they feel some lingering fondness for what it represented for them in the past ..The message that most serious oppos have for them wont necessarily attract their inmmediate sympathy , they may be logical , common sensical and in tune with the most lofty of civilizations political values ….but they are a tad more needy and perhaps primitive in what their hearts pine for …….

    We think the message is paramount in convincing people to follow a political movement, but sometimes its something else , something to do with the emotional needs which the gestures and worlds of a particular personality can articulate and gratify.

    I could go on and on but Ill just leave you with an example , When the war of independence started all llaneros followed Boves in fighting against independence , they saw themselves as loyal to the banners of spain and as the enemies of the people who most represented the independence ideals , the hated white mantuano class …….then a few years later Boves died and a new natural leader sprung from the llaneros themselves , this was Paez , Paez was for independence and he caused all those llaneros to gradually switch sides and fight for independence , what was crucial was not the abstract theories that either side was defending and upholding , what was crucial was the person and manner in which they started feeling that fighting for independence gave them an emotional sattifaction that they didnt find, fighting with Boves succesors ……..

    just some food for thought …….!!

    • That is a well-written, very thought0full piece. It gets across a lot of stuff at an understandable level. And I see many angles to it all as well – as you say, “I could o on and on ….” Emotions move when reason “may be logical , common sensical and in tune with the most lofty of civilizations political values” but seems light and lacking in “heavy.” What gets me is why anyone would want political power. I can see it if there’s a need to change things from the worse for the better. In that case, it’s an expedient, a necessary, like getting up Monday morning.

      In every chain of command of politics there have to be people who are willing to implement the orders given. The apparatchiks who know better, but do not have the “status” to turn on their “superiors.” This morning MCM and a very surprising piece by a woman I knew very little about, the exiled daughter of Fidel Castro, again brought to my attention something lurking in the back of my mind for a while now, that when women have to lead in thought and in motivation, there must be something weak in en. Their thought, or should I say OUR thought, our reason, our motivation – what is it that is “killing us?” I’m not at all against women moving us. That has been true for ages in many forms. It just seems to me we should have more men taking the banner, and that it’s unfair to dump that burden on women.

      We men, I think, have to begin working more on our faculties of logic and on our perceptions of truth, and stand up for it, and talk more. And act with common sense, not ego and greed.

    • Actually, they did find it with Boves successors. What Paez had was better funding and war strategy. You can believe all those llanero caudillos, independentists or royalists, were real arrecho people.

      It was almost the same then to be independentist or royalist for a llanero, it only mattered to the caudillos for whom it determined their military alliances.

      The actual lesson is that what caudillos stand for is much less important than that they stand. That a message is not about content but about pride and the promise of booty. People generaly catch the booty part, but seem on principle to refuse to acknowledge the pride part. Must be some weird Christian thing…

      • Nacho : part of the story has to do with the fact that once Morillos army of 10.000 regular army soldiers arrived , they tightened up formal control of the Loyalist command structure setting aside the loosely controlled bands of paramilitary llanero calvary , this brought about quite a bit of dissapointment in their ranks.

        In fact one of the reasons why Morillos expeditions was sent to Terra Firme rather than to La Plata was because the paramilitary llanero loyalist groups showed an inclination towards the persecution of white people who knew how to read regardless of whether they were royal loyalists or patriots …..and the Peninsular Spanish govt was fearful that they might end up losing the control of the repossesed territory to these bands.

        The llanero developed a cult of Paez ( who from all accounts was an extraordinary natural leader) which translated into their following him into the independence army.Of course the promise of booty also was part of his appeal.

        Paez joining the patriot ranks was also pure coincidence , he started by being an anonymous peon working in a cattle hacienda belonging to Manuel Pulido , who on meeting Paez took a liking to him and entrusted him with the management of all his cattle trading , Paez became a good cattle trader and after a year set up his own cattle trading business with Pulidos blessing . When Pulido decided to join the patriot cause he called on his former protege to join his small army . Thereafter Paez was a convinced patriot who went from feat to feat earning the admiration and respect of all who knew him !!

        According to testimony from the british legionaires they were as taken in by his charisma as the llaneros , so much so that there were many british legionaires who preferred following Paez rather than Bolivar believing him to be the better soldier …!!

  12. Chavismo remains a viable coalition of true believers and people whose jobs depend on its existence. And the opposition remains perplexingly dysfunctional. With the country on the brink of complete collapse. That’s what it tells me.

  13. I am surprised that, except for Bill Bass above comment, nobody has mentioned social classes struggle as the explaining factor of the poll’s results. The support obtained by LL and MCM after their long herculean and full hearted effort to communicate their message to the masses is soo meagre because of their unavoidable images as mantuanos. Class consciousness is a powerful motivator of political choices and weltanshauung. Objectively recognizing one’s own class belonging is as strong as religion and nationalism for defining which leaders to follow and which options to vote for. So I don’t think that this is a matter of, “the ‘saviors’ [being] so fabulously incapable of selling their message” as Andres has posted. It is rather a matter of the feeling of class belonging being so hard to abandon. Chavez intuitively knew that and he, diabolically or perhaps naturally following his own class feeling, exploited it to the maximum.

  14. Great read.
    Our time probably isn’t the easiest for politicians not only in Venezuela. For example in the comparatibly very well organized Northern Europe between 15% and 30% or more invest their vote in some populist and nationalist wanna-be demagogues without any real plan how to run this complex societies.
    A lot of self interest, dishonesty and greed will allways be part of democracy. Nevertheless it may be a sign of our time that profesional politicians are exposed to way too massive critique from a bunch of self declared “independant thinkers”, who simply think and talk without participating in an active way.
    There are theories that the technological change of the introduction of massive scale radio is a paramount explanation for the rise of demagogues in the European Politics of the 20ties and 30ties. Maybe Internet supports some weltgeist-thing of hypocritical, unrealistic, overdrawn, pedantic and consensus-incapable attitude against profesional politicians sometimes combines with an astounding willingness to fall in a sudden love relationship with the latest gems of some bigmouth outsiders.

  15. Eventhough the rampant ignorance, incompetence, absurd thinking and behavior of a vast portion of venezuelan people, the recent results in the last december AN elections, which I suppose must be taken into account, do not reflect the conclusion stated.

  16. The thing is how the aproval has been evolving. I seem to recall that according to the same poll, the aproval rating was in the mid to low 20’s during last year. So that means he has been actually regaining followers. That can’t be explained by something like class belonging as that hasn’t changed.

    It does seem to imply that (unbelievably) something about what he has been doing lately is actually working to improve his image.

    Or the lack of a proper nutrition is accentuating the cognitive dissonance.

  17. Andres, from my limited downscale everyday sampling, 33% suppoort of Maduro is dubious, even recognizing the clientar aspects of PetroPopulism, and Venezuela’s overwhelmingly ignorant/under-educated populace, unless respondents are confusing Maduro with “Chavismo”. Also, “wheat-talking” may better be expressed as “chaff-talking”, although “paja” could be interpreted also as “straw”, unless you mean talking over a good wheat or rye whiskey,

  18. Hold your horses there for a sec.

    Yes, Only a third of the country does identify itself with the opposition, but:

    1. That’s the exact same number we had exactly a year ago, pre-campaign.

    2. It increased (within error margin admitedly) in regards to January

    3. With a 45,6% of self-identification as opposition in December (an increase just big enough to barely make it out of margin of error), we claimed 60% of the national tally; a not so easy to disregard increase of
    10-20% considering the error gap.

    4. At no point before last march was this number higher than it is today, up until 2004, en pleno peo de las firmas para el revocatorio.

    5. Lastly, we’re a full 8,5% ahead of Chavism and 12,5% above the independents. Yes, this point shouldn’t even be to my favor, but it is.

    It’s not an overwhelming majority, in that we do agree, dear Andrés, but in no way is this a bad performance for MUD, who have never been good at transforming its electoral base into its activist core. This is progress. Slow, frustrating, everlasting, but progress nontheless.

    It’s also important to keep in mind that Independents used to be around 50% of the sample back in 2010. Ever since then, the trend is clear: a downwards nonstop slide into the mid-20s. And as of Maduro’s tenure as President, Chavismo too has been on a steady decline. Guess who’s been capitalizing those slips…

    Cheers! Great post

  19. Me cago en LVL, el encuestologo. His claim to fame is: you (and my wife) want to hear this, but the reality is bla bla bla…. he is an expert and has a strong position on everything.

    I challenge the “Datanálisis is, by far, the most professional, least-politicized pollster in Venezuela. Not only does it boast the cleanest prediction record of all…” claim. During the last days of the last campaign “guabineo” and said that chavismo was closing the gap only to say after we kicked some ass that it was in the expected margin. A 2/3 victory which in his typical guabineoso style he gave very little weight to.

    I also remember in the HCR-NM election his article that HCR that it was almost impossible for HCR to close the gap, we know how that turned out.

    Sabe tanto, que sabe a mierda.

  20. Not to belabour a point but the accuracy of polls depends on people answering honestly to the questions put to them , most people are distrustful of answering questions from people they dont know and who may be posing as pollsters while really forming part of a regime campaign, thus there will be quite a few who will skew their answer so that if the pollster is really working for the govt the information they give will not be used agaisnt them , specially those who might be in an exposed position , govt workers, reciepients of public benefits etc. This regime is famously known to retaliate against those that take a dissident position.
    …….

    If this fact is considered then the number of pro regime followers would probably fall ………this fear margin of deviance should be incorporated into the pollster calculation to provide a more accurate result….

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