Do you believe in polls? Are they actually manipulated to favor the best bidder, as it has been said happens in Mexico.
One week ago, the election for the State of Mexico (Edo-Mex) was launched by the four participating candidates for governor. Right in tandem with the election, two leading polls came up with first “results” which immediately polarized the election.
One of the polls was conducted by Financial daily El Financiero, an organization associated with Bloomberg News. In that tally Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Alfredo del Mazo Maza came out on top, followed by Delfina Gómez Álvarez of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and lagging behind in third and fourth places were Josefina Vásquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) and finally Juan Zepeda of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).
A second poll by SDPNoticias news agency put Morena’s Gómez Álvarez on top with 31.2 percent while PRI’s Del Mazo Maza trailed at 24.7 and in third place was PAN’s Vásquez Mota with 18.4 of the vote, while Juan Zepeda of PRD was placed way down with 12 percent of electoral preferences.
What can we conclude from the results of these two serious but differing polls?
On the same day, candidate Del Mazo Maza was extremely happy telling radio broadcasters that he started the campaign “way up in the polls,” as El Financiero tallied him with 32 percent of the vote and Gómez Álvarez with three points less.
But even if this election is just warming up, other political opinion leaders such as well-known pen Federico Arreola couldn’t help but saying in lingo worthy of Groucho Marx or Mexico’s Cantinflas for that matter:
“El Financiero contradicts SDPNoticias, that can only mean somebody is lying. Or they may be both wrong or one is wrong and the other right and telling the truth. Nobody at this point owns the truth.”
The case in any election is that pollsters don’t own the truth; the case of Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump is still fresh in our memories. The media as a whole fell flat on its face when The Donald came out ahead with the Electoral College vote, but lost the popular vote by over a three million vote difference.
There was later in the week a third poll that also put Gómez Álvarez in first place with 27 percent of the preferential vote, and Del Mazo with 24.7. The poll was carried out by well-known pollster Mitofski and it published it in another financial daily El Economist — which competes with El Financiero. In third place are PAN’s Vásquez Mota and PRD’s Zepeda with 18 percent of the vote for each.
The problem with polls whether they are for or against a candidate is that they can be “interpreted” entirely to the needs of each candidate. In the end, a poll is not an election’s result, but rather a representation of a snap shot of a political moment.
An interpretation now is that both Delfina and Alfredo (or vice versa) indeed began this race running nose to nose, and right from the start the one forecast that can be predicted (not made) is that one of the two is going to win this election.
As for PAN’s Josefina and PRD’s Juan, the voters’ preference seems not to be with them. Yet, it could just be that one of them may pick up speed.
Yet polls are vital for voters so they know in which way the vote might be leading and what the trend is for candidates from week to week. That makes polls influential among voters and very important for political parties and their candidates.
A question that remains open is if pollsters are paid by the political parties to favor their candidate. This is a rumor that’s been around for years and being in Mexico, a pollster cranking the payola machine is not a far-fetched supposition.
But then, for the cleanliness of elections, the hope is a feverish fantasy, and that’s a doubt that will always nag elections.