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Opinion and Analysis: Media Watch | Politics

UK Academics Call for End to Media Misrepresentation about Polls in Venezuela’s Election

Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential election in Venezuela, a number of academics have called on sections of the UK media to end its misrepresentation about the polls in Venezuela. In an open letter (below) they raise concerns that much of the reporting of the polls is merely reflecting the spin coming from the right-wing candidates’ camp that the presidential race is tight.

 This is despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of pollsters give strong leads for Hugo Chavez, on average of 12%.

They express fears that sections of Venezuela’s right wing opposition are deliberately trying to paint a false picture about polls in order to falsely claim “that any defeat at next week’s elections is simply the result of fraud”. They would then seek to have the legitimate results de-recognised.

They point out that: “It would not be the first time that sections of the Venezuelan right-wing opposition have sought to undermine the democratic will of the Venezuelan people in this way.”

This strategy is proposed by some extreme elements of the right-wing opposition as the best way to undermine any re-election of Hugo Chavez. This is despite former US President Jimmy Carter saying in September that “the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world” and that Hugo Chavez has always won “fairly and squarely”.

The full letter reads:

We express our concern about inaccuracies and misrepresentations in some of the UK’s media’s coverage of the polls regarding Venezuela’s Presidential elections to be held on 7 October 2012.

Most pollsters give the incumbent Hugo Chavez a strong double-digit lead. Of the 18 polls carried out in September, 14 had Hugo Chavez ahead and the average lead across all the poll was 12% (See table below.)

Yet this is far from the impression given in most coverage.

For example, there has been nearly more attention on one recent poll by Consultores 21 than on all the other polls put together. Yet this poll is being promoted by elements of the right-wing opposition coalition simply for the reason that it is the only one of the respected polling companies that regularly carries out polls in Venezuela to show Hugo Chavez behind.

By misrepresenting the situation in the polls in this way the media risks inadvertently supporting a campaign from the more extreme sections of the Venezuelan opposition to try to claim that any defeat at next week’s elections is simply the result of fraud.

It would not be the first time that sections of the Venezuelan right-wing opposition have sought to undermine the democratic will of the Venezuelan people in this way.

In 2002 it carried out a short-lived coup d’état. In 2003 they carried out an illegal oil industry lock-out whose declared intention was to oust democratically elected President Hugo Chavez. They then claimed fraud in a 2004 referendum won by Chavez by 59% to 41% despite the results being verified by international observers such as the Carter Centre. They then decided to boycott the 2005 parliamentary elections, when faced with imminent defeat, a move condemned by the Organisation of American States.

We call on the media not to fall into the right-wing opposition’s trap with selective coverage of the polls and instead to properly reflect the full spectrum of polls in its coverage. 

Signed:
·         Professor Ernesto Laclau, Professor of Political Theory, University of Essex
·         Dr Francisco Dominguez,  Head of Department for Brazilian & Latin American Studies, Middlesex University  
·         Professor Jonathan Rosenhead,  Emeritus Professor of Operational Research, LSE 
·         Diana Raby, Senior Fellow, Latin American Studies University of Liverpool 
·         Dr Steve Ludlam Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics University of Sheffield 
·         Dr Peter Lambert  Specialist on Paraguay Bath University 
·         Professor Susan Michie, University College London  
·         Hazel Marsh,  Lecturer in Spanish,  University of East Anglia
·         Lee Salter, Senior Lecturer/Programme Manager in Journalism, University of the West of England

 

Notes to editors 

 1. All polls undertaken in September can be viewed in the table below.

Source: VSC