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FUD | Anti-Chávez and the Art of the Opinion Poll

Luiz Carlos Azenha of Viomundo, on the upcoming Venezuelan election, urges the poll-follower to beware.

I would say that last-minute opinion polls should be greeted with extreme skepticism.

The recall election of 2004 should not be forgotten: 58.25% of voters supported maintaining Chavez in power and 41,54% to remove him, based on a constitutional clause that permits recall elections two years into a term in office.

An exit poll by U.S. market research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, hired by an opposition group Súmate, announced that Chavez would lose by a 60%-40% margin.

Because Venezuelan law bans the release of exit poll results while polls remain open, the numbers were published in New York and retransmitted all over the world.

This sort of juridictional arbitrage is also seen in Brazil, whose election laws provide for strict controls — almost unenforceably strict, in fact — over electioneering content.

If such a message is order taken down, it can simply be moved to an offshore server in, say, Palo Alto and in this way sneak back in over the Paraguayan border.

In Venezuela, polls were still open and the publication of these contradictory results may have had a triple objective: demoralize Chavez voters who had not yet voted, encourage opposition voters, and lay the groundwork for protests questioning the legitimacy of results.

The technical term for this strategy is FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Somewhere here I have an excellent study of poll manipulation as a political strategy. Tweaking the numbers to maintain a state of «technical tie» is one example.

Recall  the world-class FUD storm surrounding the 2000 elections in Florida.

We also saw FUD at work in Mexico in 2006 — Nielsen Net Ratings and political marketers Dick Morris and Rob Allyn played a central role — and we are now seeing a chronic technical tie in most but far from all polling organizations in the São Paulo mayoral race this year.

In recent days, Capriles has claimed that unpublished polling results show him in the lead, Published polls show Chavez with a 10- to 20-point lead. 

A source to keep an eye on for viral marketing of UDN-style screaming propaganda of this sort is ORVEX, the Organization of Venezuelan Exiles.

Jadson Oliveira of Fazendo Media draws similar conclusions:

With elections ten days away, an enthusiastic popular movement in the streets and opinion polls pointing to a stable scenario of easy victory, Chavez’s main challenge is not to win, but to win by a wide margin.  Chavists say that only in this way can the charges of fraud that will be made as votes are tallied be discredited, despite the powerful international «media terrorism» network — so-called — organized by the CIA.

Capriles, an attorney and sitting governor of Miranda state, has spared no expense in the effort to disassociate himself from such labels as «bourgeois», «conservative» and «right wing», as Chavez and his supporters call him.

The spectre of Cold War black propaganda may well be the product of exaggeration and moral panic among Bolivarian supporters, but tell that to the Marines: there is verisimilitude to the charges against old Uncle Sam and its Sam’s own fault.

In Caracas, Capriles is holding well-attended campaign rallies to present his plan of government, organized by theme. Topics include a «zero hunger» program like that put in place by the Lula government in Brazil. «Our farmers will have easy credit and the shantytowns, which belong to the people, will be improved».

Heir to one of his nation’s largest fortunes, Capriles insists that his victory will represent «the will of the people» and that, as the governor who invested most in education, he is a «progressive». His speeches often site the PT government in Brazil for having «created 16 million jobs and lifted 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. ».

He sounds a bit like a Venezuelan Mike Bloomberg, doesn’t he? Bloomberg has also praised and studied the Brazilian program.

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