JPEG - 11.3 kb

Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela’s highest circulation newspaper, reported yesterday that pro-opposition pollsters Consultores 21 gave the "no" recall option 55% support, and 45% to the opposition’s "yes". According to the paper, U.S. opinion research firm Evans McDonough Company and Venezuelan firm Varianzas Opinion, gave Chavez a 51% of support and 43% to the opposition.

Polling firm Impediosa puts the "no" option at 53%, and the anti-Chavez "yes" at 39%, according to Ultimas Noticias. Last Friday, polling firm North American Opinion Research unveiled the results of their latest survey giving the "no" recall option 63% against 32% the opposition’s "yes" option, a 31% advantage to Chavez.

The Director of Venezuelan operations of the company, Carlos Sanchez, declared that the poll was conducted between August 1st and 5th, surveying 1,200 voters in 20 states. The poll was done through home interviews and had a 3.5% margin of error. According to Sanchez the poll determined that 7% are undecided and 4% of voters will abstain. President Chavez remains the country’s most popular figure with 59% those surveyed favoring him. Opposition leader and eventual presidential candidate Enrique Mendoza’s support hovers around 14%, while other opposition figures such as Enrique Salas Römer, Julio Borges and Juan Fernandez got 9, 5 and 3 percent respectively. Due to the opposition’s questioning of his company’s survey results, Sanchez invited the media-most of which openly oppose the President-to a cocktail on the 17th of August to compare his company’s findings with official numbers of the recall referendum.

Venezuela’s poll war became quite colorful last Wednesday when opposition newspaper El Universal published on its front page a poll favoring the opposition allegedly conducted by firm Seijas y Asociados, which turned out to be false and of an unknown origin. Seijas y Asociados declared not to have conducted such poll, and El Universal said they obtained the survey by e-mail. "Publishing an eight columns poll obtained by email on a paper’s front page without verifying the source, should cause the newspaper’s editor’s to resign," said Venezuelan Information Minister Jesse Chacon.

Opposition politicians accuse Chavez of using public funds in social programs for the poor in order to bolster his political campaign. Some other oppositionists have said that pro-Chavez activists are continuously following pollsters around cities in order to be interviewed and alter the surveys. Some local political commentators aligned with the opposition have argued that many voters would respond in favor of Chavez during polls for fear of being the target of "government repression".

In spite of the fact that most polls in recent weeks show a clear Chavez advantage, influential international media outlets continue to argue that polls show Chavez losing the recall or are too close to call. "The more reputable polling firms suggest the opposition is in the lead, albeit by an uncomfortably small margin," said the latest issue of Newseek in an article written by Phil Gunson. "The polls - by the opposition and by the government - are often too close to call," said correspondent Juan Forero in the Aug 6th issue of The New York Times.

14,245,615 Venezuelans are registered to vote in the recall. Last Thursday, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council approved a contingency plan to use manual voting procedures in case of tecnical problems with the electronic voting machines to be used in the recall. The machines will be audited today in order to determine their accuracy and reliability.