No, we are not talking about the November 6 election in the United States. Oligarch I v. Oligarch II will not decide anything. Walk around your neighborhood: nary a flower pot will change positions.
We are talking about the Venezuelan election two days away. President Hugo Chávez versus Henrique Capriles.
The CIA and State Department would give their eye teeth to beat Chávez. To do so would, among other things, build momentum to stop President Rafael Correa in Ecuador´s February election new year.
Here´s what the public opinion surveys are saying about Chávez versus Capriles:
"The most recent polls give a confused picture, but suggest the race is wide open. According to a poll by Consultores 21 polling firm, released on 27 September, Capriles is leading in voters' preferences with 46.5% compared to Chávez's 45.7%. Another poll, which was released on the same day by Hinterlaces intelligence agency, gave Chávez 50% and Capriles 34%, with 14% deciding not to answer. A poll by Datanalisis polling organization, released on 25 September, suggested that Chávez had 49.9% of the voters' preferences against Capriles' 39%, while the undecided vote was estimated at 11.6%.
The difference in results between the polls reflects the difficulties of accurately forecasting the 7 October election. The wide variation between the two poll results could reflect methodological flaws derived from the sectors of the population surveyed, or the locations in which the surveys were conducted. The high number of people who refused to answer in the Hinterlaces poll (14%) and the number of still-undecided voters in the Datanalisis poll (11.6%), could also reflect interviewees' fear of retaliation from the authorities ... Interestingly, if the number of those who refused to answer in the Hinterlaces poll and those undecided in the Datanalisis poll are added to the vote preferences for Capriles, the results are quite similar to those shown by Consultores 21. If that is the case, both candidates are running neck-and-neck."
Capriles in a squeaker? Chávez in a landslide? There are three reasons why the Venezuelan election cannot be predicted:
1. Venezuela does not have mandatory voting. Consequently, polling is an iffy proposition because the right population, i.e., the population who will vote, has not been identified and polled. The high percentage of Venezuelan "undecideds" (11.6%) tells the story: the pollsters interviewed many nonvoters. Nonvoters by definition are not interested in an election, hence are "undecided." It is hardly surprising that if you poll the right population -- voters -- you will see the “undecided” group shrink dramatically.
But how can future voters be identified?
Asking people if they "intend" to vote can be treacherous. The majority will reject the insinuation that they are bad citizens and say yes, of course they intend to vote, then undergo the pollster´s interview. Result: nonvoters -- the wrong population -- have been included, contaminating the findings.
In the 1970s we identified and refined an objective technique to identify real voters. Objective, because only action, not words, determined who was polled. Our method remains a trade secret. However, even if we released it, it would not be widely used because it requires more time, effort and resources, hence it is less profitable for polling firms and more expensive for candidates.
2. My sources indicate that both Chávez and Capriles are using election day, Get Out The Vote techniques developed in the precomputer world. In the late 1980s, we developed computerized GOTV tools that devastated our opponents; the Venezuelan candidates have nothing approaching them. Advantage: nobody.
Inefficient drives by Chávez and Capriles to get their favorable voters to the polls eliminate any last minute K.O.
3. The Venezuelan election will be entirely computerized. Every TV report from Caracas displays election officials swearing up and down that there is no way the election can be hacked. Naiveté is, of course, music to the hacker´s ears. For an introduction to how computerized elections can be stolen, see "Hacking Democracy" and "$26 to Hack a Voting Machine."
I totally oppose computerized voting. I hate to say it, but you can have all the observers you want and take all the thumbprints you like; people are out there who can still cheat you blind.
Footnote: Regarding the Obama v. Romney election, here are the latest Gallup tracking polls. Clearly, we are looking at an election resembling 2008. Our post (September 15, 2012) concluded of the Obama-McCain contest, "Only in the final 40 days, when the economy was clearly capsizing, did Obama take the lead. Thus, he owes his victory not to his own efforts but to outside events."
As with the McCain race, what should be a slam/dunk affair for Obama next month is not. Why is Romney alive and kicking? The latest Gallup polls tell the story. Obama and his campaign staff do not understand momentum. Which means October events and conditions could once more be the deciding factor.
Will those outside circumstances favor or oppose Obama? The only thing that is certain: it is bad policy for him to rely on them as he did in 2008. Machiavelli: "But confining myself more closely to the matter in hand, I note that one day we see a Prince prospering and the next day overthrown, without detecting any change in his nature or character. This, I believe, comes chiefly from a cause already dwelt upon, namely, that a Prince who rests wholly on Fortune is ruined when she changes."