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Caracas, Saturday August 06 , 2005  
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Alfredo Keller thinks that President Chávez' popularity is feeble
Intention to vote President Hugo Chávez drops 45 percent
A charismatic figure and growing revenues have enabled the president to sell illusions, Keller says (Photo: Nicola Rocco)
According to the pollster, popularity numbers shrunk by 9 percent within one quarter, with 30 percent for political support. "Over a third backs the government for strictly practical reasons"



Alfredo Keller, the guru of Keller & Associates, a widely recognized barometer of public opinion, welcomes us with a query: "I wonder why this survey has made such a fuss."

Q: Because, according to that survey, Chávez popularity is going down again. This had not happened since 2003.

A: That is true. There is a trend.

Q: Chávez has been down and then up again. This swing may be not necessarily a final trend.

A: There are reasons to explain such expected fall. We asked people about government action to solve problems. While an abstract question, it shows ups and downs. A difference is made between "the generic view about the government solving problems (illusion) and averaged solution of problems, including unemployment, crime, cost of living and poverty."

Q: People answered that the government is making a good job to solve problems, but then stated that nothing has been made to solve them. Is not that a contradiction?

A: This is because Chávez has sold plenty of illusions and promises for a better way of living and eradication of poverty.

Q: In any case, "illusion" is very high, 74 points.

A: No doubt. He is a great illusionist, a tremendous seller of illusions. But there is a tear-and-wear trend, as the aid policy exacerbated by Chávez raises high expectation. Chávez popularity is based on illusion instead of facts. This shows misleading popularity built upon illusion.

Q: In the face of money availability, one may think that, rather than vanishing, illusion should stay.

A: Chávez' egalitarian, claiming wording is based both on his charisma and domestic wealth. This helps to keep an expectation similar to the lottery. "Any time it will be my turn." All of this rests on the belief about the country being extremely wealthy. Ninety-two percent thinks that Venezuela is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and the government is called to apportion such wealth.

Q: In any case, the survey published by you shows that president's popularity is still very high -61 percent.

A: Yes. But popularity has different faces. You may think that the president is nice and appealing. Now, is that popularity?

Q: In 2003, when the recall referendum should have been conducted, there was a 70/30 ratio favoring the opposition. However, Chávez postponed the consultation and the terms were reverted.

A: Based on illusion and redistribution.

Q: How can you ensure that this will not happen again by 2006?

A: I cannot ensure anything. But I can anticipate that support to Chávez grew during the subsequent creation of missions (social welfare programs), and this had a big impact.

Q: One of them vowed scholarships for 400,000 students.

A: It was easy to imagine that everybody was going to receive anything. But today, missions are a tangible reality. Out of 400,000 "scholars," only 72 were actual recipients. Further, missions stopped causing wonder, because they turned into routine. If he (President Chávez) sparked the desire of seven or eight million people, he will be not able ultimately to satisfy all of them.

Q: Who is to be favored by such frustration?

A:  Chávez is not the problem, but the opposition. The opposition has failed to provide an alternative to cash in on potential frustration. Then, people have two choices. Either they stop playing, as many do, or, since there is no alternative, continue tied to Chávez. Over a third backs Chávez for strictly practical reasons. Therefore, Chávez support does not reach 30 percent in political terms.

Q: Concerning the score of 45 percent for Chávez based on intention to vote, how are potential opposition candidates doing? Who is closer?

A: (Laugh)

Q: Obviously, Chávez is in the first place.

A: Absolutely. Opposition diversity is the problem.

Q: Division.

A: Indeed. One single leader is the government strength and weakness. While decision making can be sound and the only reference, single leadership undermines it, as the boss' blessing is needed. Therefore, he is most responsible for ineffectiveness. Local governors have noted it, because they cannot take any step without Chávez prior consent. This makes government very vulnerable. As a result, people go to Miraflores presidential palace, instead of ministries, to voice frustration.

Q: If elections were today, Chávez would win them.

A: Yes. But this will be not the case in one and a half year term. Until the first quarter of this current year, I thought that Chávez would win in 2006. Now, I am not that sure. Based on the current trend, in the mid of next year there will be a wide range of opportunities for emerging, competitive leaders. Provided that opposition has learned from mistakes, it is possible that there will be, rather than one single candidate, the most legitimate possible procedure for opposition to offer a strong, sound, unified initiative including a project and an illusion.

Q: Again, Chávez turned out contrary to the expectations within one year.

A: It cost him over USD five billion. Now he has some more, but he lacks ability to surprise.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

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