Poll Gives Venezuela’s Chavez 22-Point Lead Ahead of Presidential Vote

With less than a month until the Venezuelan presidential vote, President Hugo Chavez has a 22-point lead over his leading rival, according to a poll by US firm Evans/McDonough that was commissioned by the state oil company and released Tuesday.

With less than a month until the Venezuelan presidential vote, President Hugo Chavez has a 22-point lead over his leading rival, according to a poll commissioned by the state oil company and released Tuesday.

U.S.-based pollster Evans/McDonough Company and Venezuelan company Consultores 30.11 found 57-percent support for Chavez versus 35 percent for challenger Manuel Rosales in what the they said was the largest Venezuelan election poll this year.

Chavez, upon hearing of the results, predicted a "big victory" and said the backing comes in spite of an opposition media campaign to confuse Venezuelans.

The poll indicated that Venezuelans’ perceptions of how the country is faring have changed little since they voted overwhelmingly to keep Chavez in power two years ago in a recall referendum, according to the pollsters.

German Campos, director of research at Consultores 30.11, said that indicates Chavez may win the Dec. 3 vote "by a margin superior to the results of the 2004 referendum."

The poll found that 53 percent said they had a positive perception of Chavez’s government, while 37 percent said they had a negative perception and the remainder said neither.

Chavez expressed concern that more than a third were negative about his administration, saying, "we still have a lot of work to do."

Asked about Chavez’s proposal to construct a socialist state in Venezuela, 43 percent said they either agreed or strongly agreed, while 38 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Ninety-two percent said they intended to vote or would probably vote on Dec. 3. Among those who weren’t sure whether they would vote, the top reason cited was distrust in electoral authorities and fear of fraud.

The two most popular descriptions of Chavez were "best president" followed by "dictator."

About half of the respondents credited Chavez with looking out for the poor, helping to improve the economy, representing Venezuela well internationally and allowing freedom of expression. About a third said those factors better described Rosales.

Comparing the latest results with a poll from August 2004, Campos said Venezuelans today appeared to be more staunchly aligned either with Chavez or the opposition.

"The data reflect that today a larger number of Venezuelans prefer to put themselves in one of the two options," he said.

Evans/McDonough President Alex Evans said Rosales would find it hard to overcome Chavez’s advantage.

"We were looking for potential weaknesses for Chavez," but conditions at present are comparable to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 2001 re-election victory, when "there wasn’t much doubt," said Evans.

The survey was commissioned by PDVSA Holdings, a subsidiary of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

The polling firms said PDVSA had no influence on the survey and was notified of the result on Tuesday along with the public.

Evans/McDonough said it had a reliable track record in Venezuela: its poll prior to the August 2004 recall referendum showed 53 percent of Venezuelans believed Chavez would remain in office, while 32 percent predicted he would be ousted. Chavez eventually captured 59 percent of the referendum vote, while 42 percent voted for him to leave.

The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 2,000 registered voters nationwide Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Evans/McDonough and Consultores 30.11 are planning to conduct another poll about a week before the election, as well as an exit poll on the day of the vote.

Slide presentation by Evans/McDonough (click here for PDF file)