Monday, May 6, 2013

Where have all the voters gone?

Voters in Honduras are increasingly dissatisfied with the choices the political parties have given them for Presidential candidates.

That's the real conclusion of a new poll taken by Encuestadora Paradigma.  The poll, involving 2,292 interviews of voting age individuals in 16 departments in Honduras, carried out between the 14th and 23rd of April, has a 2.2% margin or error at the 95% confidence interval.

The poll, the third this year from Encuestadora Paradigma, asked "if the election of 2013 were today, who would you vote for among the candidates listed, for president?"

Here's the results:
Xiomara Castro                  19.7%
Juan O. Hernandez           13.3%
Mauricio Villeda                10.2%
Salvador Nasralla               9.9%
Not Stated/No Response   20.1%
None of the Above            26.4%

Support for everyone else, including Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, together accounted for a grand total of 0.4%. 

Assuming the sample is actually representative, this would tend to indicate Xiomara Castro, of the Libre party, is really leading all her competitors for president, since the difference between her and the next polled candidate is substantially more than the margin of error.

Other leading candidates aren't buying it.

Mauricio Villeda, candidate for the Liberal party, says his own internal polls, conducted by Borge & Asociados, show him in the lead over everyone else running.

Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National party says pretty much the same thing.

Ecuestadora Paradigma offers data from consecutive months of polling for February, March, and April of this year.

The trends in their results are interesting.  All of the candidates, with the exception of Nasralla, have lost popularity over this period. 

Hernandez has lost 4.7 points, falling from 18.6% in February to 13.3% in April, Castro has lost 5.3 points, going from 25% in February to 19.7% in April.  Villeda lost 2.7% going from 12.9% in February to 10.2% in April. Nasralla has gained 0.2% over the same interval, which is well within the range to simply be statistical noise.

So where have the voters gone?

The number of None of the Above, and No Response/Decline to State have increased in each monthly poll.  The percentage of people choosing No Response/Decline to State increased by 7.2%, while the percentage of people selecting None of the Above grew 7.8%. That means that 15% of the electorate decided to abandon their support for a defined candidate over the course of three months.

Encuestadora Paradigma gives the political party membership for respondents. These numbers should make Juan O. Hernandez and Mauricio Villeda afraid. Their constituencies, the Liberal and National party members, made up slightly more than 45% of the respondents, yet combined, only 23.5% of the respondents say they will vote for these candidates. Where are the other 21.5% of members of these traditional leading parties?

One answer: to the new alternative parties that formed in the wake of the 2009 coup.

Xiomara Castro's popularity extends beyond the 13% of the sample composed of Libre party members, as does Nasralla's popularity, which is clearly broader than the 3.2% of respondents who say they belong to his party. 

But the change in the political landscape may be more than this.  More than a third of voters polled by Encuestadora Paradigma, 38.2%, reported not belonging to any political party. 

The take away: Xiomara Castro is undisputably the front runner in this poll, as she has been in all three of Encuestadora Paradigma's polls.

So far, only two candidates are showing a broader appeal beyond their own party, both in newly formed parties. Castro and Nasralla have shown an ability to appeal to voters beyond their party.

Meanwhile the candidates of the traditional two leading parties, Hernandez and Villeda, are not managing to capture the support of all of their party members, let alone enough voters from outside to indicate one would win if the election were held today. 

Getting the support of the large block of independent voters, and getting them to vote, will be the challenge for whichever candidate wants to win the election in November. There is a long time between now and then-- but this is not how Honduran presidential politics used to work.

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