With independent, reputable polling organizations showing Hugo Chavez with a commanding (20-30 point) lead in the Venezuelan Presidential campaign, supporters of his opponent, Manuel Rosales, are already saying "We wuz robbed!!!"
Calvin Tucker in the Guardian (UK) breaks these polls down as follows:
This, despite the fact that no reputable polling company has produced a survey giving the lead to Rosales, governor of the state of Zulia.
A number of serious polls -- including a recent one commissioned by the Associated Press -- suggest that Sunday's result will likely be not much different from those of 1998, 2000 and the midterm recall referendum of 2004. All were won by Chávez by a roughly 60-40 margin.
The six most recent polls conducted by recognised firms put the gap between the two candidates as follows: Zogby - University of Miami: 29%, Associated Press - IPSOS: 32%, Datanalysis: 27%, Datos: 27%, Consultores 21: 17%, Evans McDonough: 22%.How in the world does Manuel Rosales's campaign claim to be winning in the face of these polls? In Chicago lore, one of the ways to win friends and influence people -- especially people who need some product or service -- is the phrase, "I got a guy..." Well, Rosales has got a guy. The US Government. And they have some pollsters. And they have done this kind of thing before (wink, wink...nudge, nudge).
One of the pollsters whose results indicate that Rosales is mysteriously pulling ahead is Penn, Schoen, and Berland. Now, PSB is an actual public opinion research company. They've been around for thirty years. But some of their recent projects call their work on behalf of the Rosales campaign into question.
- To their credit, they were involved in US efforts to undermine the authority of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, helping to train opposition organizers, equipping them with technology and providing them with techniques to shape public opinion. That's fine; it's just not objective.
- They were involved in the 2004 Recall election in Venezuela. Voters kept Chavez in power by an 18 point margin, with 70% of eligible voters voting, in an election monitored by the Organization of American States and other international observers (including President Jimmy Carter). PSB exit polls showed Chavez losing the recall by a 60-40 margin. Chavez opponents cried "fraud!"
- They worked for the 2006 re-election campaign of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- through his right-wing party Forza Italia. They were the only polling organization to predict a Forza Italia victory.
Polling operations in the recent coups have been overseen by such outfits as Penn, Schoen and Berland, top advisors to Microsoft and Bill Clinton. Praising their role in subverting Serbia, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (and later Chairman of NDI) , in an October 2000 letter to the firm quoted on its website, stated: "Your work with the National Democratic Institute and the Yugoslav opposition contributed directly and decisively to the recent breakthrough for democracy in that country . . . This may be one of the first instances where polling has played such an important role in setting and securing foreign policy objectives."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you want a common sense explanation of why Chavez has won in the past, survived a coup because millions rose up against the plotters, was re-elected, survived a re-call, and will be re-elected this weekend, it is simply because he is the first Venezuelan leader in my lifetime to put the needs of all Venezuelans, but especially poor Venezuelans, before the demands of global, un-regulated, laissez faire, "free-market" capitalism. And in Venezuela, the poor vote.
It's as simple as that. Now watch the opposition howl on Monday.