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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