Chavez still ahead in polls but rival closing in

CARACAS, Venezuela, Friday September 28, 2012 — One of the last polls ahead of Venezuela’s October 7 election revealed President Hugo Chavez holding a 10-point lead over opponent Henrique Capriles, but the survey released on Tuesday indicated that the challenger was narrowing the gap.
 
Datanalisis, one of Venezuela’s most respected polling firms, found that about 49 percent said they planned to vote for Chavez and about 39 percent said they intended to vote for Capriles. About 11 percent revealed no preference, according to Luis Vicente Leon who heads the polling firm.
 
The latest results demonstrated Capriles narrowing the 46-31 percent lead that Chavez held in Datanalisis’ June’s poll.

Leon said it was the final poll Datanalisis plans to release publicly before the vote. It’s possible the candidates’ percentages may already have shifted somewhat since the survey was carried out weeks ago.
 
The poll, which questioned 1,600 people between August 25 and September 5, had a margin of error of about 2 percentage points. It was funded by a group of about 100 clients, including businesses and government entities.
 
According to Leon, Capriles’ active campaigning in about 260 towns has had an impact. In contrast, Chavez has concentrated on a smaller number of rallies, and has been less active after over a year of cancer treatments including surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.
 
Although the president has said he’s now cancer-free, Leon said his campaign has been affected by his health problems.
 
After almost 14 years in office, Chavez for the first time will face a strong rival and no other opposition candidate has achieved such support in pre-election polls when facing Chavez, the pollster said. He also advised that changes in public opinion can still occur in the less than two weeks before the vote.
 
The country has been inundated with widely varying poll results, and some pollsters have reportedly not been open about discussing their sources of funding or political leanings.
 
Some political surveys, including those conducted by the pollster GIS XXI, run by Chavez’s former justice minister Jesse Chacon, have repeatedly shown the president with a lead of more than 20 percent.
 
Others, such as those conducted by Consultores 21 and Varianzas, have shown Capriles either roughly even or slightly ahead of Chavez.
 
A survey released by Varianzas on Tuesday indicated a close race, with about 50 percent saying they plan to vote for Chavez and 48 percent for Capriles. The Varianzas poll consulted 2,000 people between September 7 and 20, and had an error margin of about 2 percent, according to Rafael Delgado, the company’s director. He said the survey was financed by a private group, which he declined to reveal.
 
State television, meanwhile, broadcast the results of a survey by International Consulting Services saying Chavez had a lead of nearly 20 percentage points. The source of funding for that poll was also unclear.
 
The wide differences in results have not surprisingly led many Venezuelans to doubt the accuracy of polls.
 
“The variation between the polls is so big that there are some that say Chavez is winning by 30 points and others that say he’s losing by almost 10 points,” said Angel Alvarez, a political science professor at Central University of Venezuela.

“Most people don’t believe in any of the polls anymore because they see so much variability that they say somebody is lying or everybody is lying, and on top of that there’s been a lot of skepticism about the quality of the polls to predict results.”

Datanalisis, however, is widely considered one of the country’s leading polling firms. It has had a record of accuracy in past elections and has earned respect from both political camps with its monthly surveys. It accurately gauged that Chavez was leading ahead of his last re-election victory in 2006, when he won with 63 percent of the vote.

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