Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias enjoys a huge lead in his effort to win reelection to another six-year term as president, a new University of Miami School of Communication/Zogby International poll shows.
Chávez, representing the Fifth Republic Movement, wins 59% support from Venezuelan voters, compared to 24% for Manuel Rosales – the governor of Zulia, representing A New Time party — and just 2% for Benjamin Rausseo, a Venezuelan comedian endorsed by the “piedra” party, the survey shows.
The controversial world leader, who has built an international reputation for himself in opposing initiatives advanced by the United States, and specifically President George W. Bush, has also pushed for reforms at home to pull Venezuelans out of poverty, and to improve the public health care system in the nation, among other reforms. On the world stage, he has worked to enhance his influence with other nations, particularly in Latin America, leveraging his nation’s substantial oil revenue to curry favor. He has built a particularly close relationship with Cuba President Fidel Castro, who long has been a thorn in the side of U.S. leaders.
Chávez’s lead in the race stems at least in part from his popularity and job performance – 59% said they have a favorable opinion of him and the same percentage give him positive job performance marks, while 40% had a negative review of his work on behalf of the nation.
In addition, 59% said he deserves to be reelected, compared to 33% who said he does not.
No matter the controversy Chávez engenders on the world stage, 58% of likely voters in his homeland said their nation is headed in the right direction, while 28% said things are off on the wrong track. Another 15% said they were unsure.
Asked what issue was most important in decided whom to support in the election, a plurality (39%) said they were most concerned about bringing change to Venezuelan life. Of those who said that, Rosales held a slim 42% to 38% lead. But Chavez led by huge margins among those who had other top priorities in mind for their president. Among those who said the personality of the candidate was most important, Chavez led Rosales by a 73% to 14% margin.
Chávez, 52, has promoted stronger ties to other Latin American countries as an effort to counter what he calls “imperialism” imposed by the U.S. In a speech last month at the United Nations, he publicly ridiculed Bush, calling him the “devil.”
And his attacks on Bush seem to reflect sentiment at home – just 20% of Venezuelan likely voters said they hold a favorable opinion of Bush, compared to 57% who have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. leader. That compares to 39% who hold a favorable opinion of Castro, and 43% who hold an unfavorable opinion of him. The rest were either unfamiliar with Bush and Castro, or were unsure.
Asked about that U.N. speech, 36% said they were proud of their president’s performance in New York City, while 23% said they were ashamed of it. Another 15% said it didn’t matter to them, while 26% were either unfamiliar with the speech or were unsure what to think about it.
As a member of OPEC, he has constantly pushed for strict production controls to make sure the price of oil remains high. But the national economy is not the most important issue to Venezuelans – crime is, as 64% identified it as the top issue facing them and their families. Fully 58% said they feel that they or their families are threatened by crime, a far greater percentage than the University of Miami School of Communication/Zogby International series of polling has found in other nations in the region.
Still, 68% said they are making enough money to get by without difficulties, while 32% said they do face either some or significant difficulties because they are not making enough money.
Half of those Venezuelan likely voters surveyed said that they are doing better than they were six years ago when Chávez was last elected, and there is rampant optimism that good times will continue – 71% said they believe they will be better off six years from now.
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METHODOLOGICAL NOTE – National Opinion Survey – Venezuela October 2006
Sampling framework: INE – Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas
Interview method: Face to face in the home of the respondents.
Sampling procedure: Stratified clustering of census districts and sectors within each city, and random selection of districts, clusters, and household. Eight hundred clusters were randomly selected and 8 -10 interviews were conducted within each sampling point. Within each block, interviewers will begin walking at Northeast corner in circular fashion, skipping every 3rd house after successful completion of 1 interview. One respondent in each household was selected with quota control.
Simple size and margin of error: 800 completed interviews. The margin of error for this group is +/-3.5% with a 95% confidence level.
Voting intention: voting intention was captured using a direct question to the interviewee. The order of the candidates was replicated from the one that will be used by the INE in the December 03 election.
Fieldwork: interviews were conducted between the October 1st and October16th of 2006. A team of 12 interviewers, 5 field supervisors (in site 30% of sample and post-fieldwork 10% of sample); 5 data entry specialist; 1 DP specialist and 1 general coordinator.
Responsible for fieldwork and project’s consultant: DATA, Opinión Pública y Mercados S. C.
Sponsor and study design: Zogby International