Suffering Fools Gladly: Weisbrot on Datanálisis
Cygnus atratus.

…[I]t is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire. –Thucydides

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insaneEmperor Marcus Aurelius

We were able to agree that it was an essential element of impartiality that when a matter was controversial the viewer or listener would be able to make a judgement based on a fair assessment of all the relevant arguments and information. Relevant information should not be excluded nor should the presentation clearly favour one view over another. We recognised that this requirement had to meet the familiar point that it was not necessary to be impartial between sense and nonsense.The Budd Commission on BBC Business Journalism.

Chasing around more or less idly after this weird little story about exit polls in the Venezuelan referendum — see

— I run across this EFE wire story on phony polling results, from November 28, interviewing Mark Weisbrot of the CEPR.

It ran in the Venezuelan daily 2001.

Washington, 28 nov (EFE).- La aprobación de la reforma constitucional en el referendo de este domingo en Venezuela, de concretarse, abriría la posibilidad de medidas fraudulentas para impugnar los resultados, advirtió hoy el economista estadounidense Mark Weisbrot.

The approval of the constitutional reform in this Sunday’s referendum might lead to the use of fraudulent methods to call the results into question, warned … Weisbrot.

“Hay un riesgo significativo de que se utilicen encuestas fraudulentas y otros engaños para impugnar los resultados del referendo en Venezuela, si se aprueban las reformas constitucionales”, dijo Weisbrot, codirector del Centro para la Investigación Política y Económica (CEPR) en un comunicado.

There is a significant risk that phony polls and other deceptions will be used to call into question the results if the reforms are approved, the CEPR co-director said in a press release.

Let me see if I can find that.

Meanwhile, the CEPR claimed on November 30 that results even more favorable to YES than those cited by the Bolivarian YES-men (as reported by EFE and then disowned by Datanálisis to the AFP — which Globo then passed on to its Brazilian readers –) were stated directly to Reuters by an employee of the polling firm last week:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an interview made available Wednesday, November 28, the head of a widely-cited polling firm contradicted his firm’s own findings that had suggested a majority of likely voters would vote against proposed constitutional changes favored by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

So let me get this straight …

In an interview with Reuters posted online yesterday, Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster for Datanalisis stated, “The most probable [projection] is that there will be no surprise and Chavez will win 60 percent against 40 percent.”

See also


On behalf of private businesses.

Datanalisis’ prior survey has been the most widely cited poll in the international media in the run-up to Sunday’s referendum. The poll, conducted on behalf of private businesses, and reported in the media on November 24, reported that “about 49 percent of likely voters oppose the reforms while 39 percent favor.”

The impossible swing:

Vicente Leon’s statements directly contradict the results of the poll. If the 60/40 projection is correct, CEPR calculated that the odds of obtaining the prior poll result – i.e. 49 percent of respondents saying no — would be one in two billion trillion. “As a statistical matter, Mr. Vicente Leon’s remarks can be considered an admission that his previous poll was not valid,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot.

You might also speculated that it was valid and his current remarks were twaddle. Or simultaneously both and neither. (The official results tend to support the latter.)

Because really, the gist of the interviews seems to me to be a bit different — and worse — than Weisbrot says. The fellow goes on to say:

While Chavez has 62 percent popularity, the reforms have 34.9 percent. So it is more important that Chavez use his strength and sell Chavez supporters the idea that they are voting for him, for his continuation, rather than for the reforms themselves.

That is, he presents a tortured analysis in which the reforms will likely prevail with 60 percent of the vote, even though they enjoy only 35% “popularity.”

If you dissect the logic of what the guy is saying, I think you will find that he is saying absolutely nothing, because the numbers are fuzzy. Define “popularity,” for example.

His lips are moving, but what is emerging is not meaningful communication. It is language-like quacking. The verbal equivalent of lorem ipsum.

Because really, given the “technical tie” that resulted, neither of those “predictions” turned out to be accurate.

CEPR had warned just yesterday that dubious or fake polls might be used to influence public perceptions during the election.

“Either NO will win or it will lose.”

NO wins.

“I told you so! I amaze even myself with my powers of prognostication.”

NO loses.

“I told you so! I amaze even myself with my powers of prognostication.”

See also

An amazing amount of noise about potential election fraud was pumped by the opposition noise machine and rumor mill prior to the referendum, built up to a fever pitch in the years since 2004.

I have been trying to clip a fair sample of same.

Now that NO has be declare the winner, however, will they hasten to defend the integrity of the deeply flawed electronic voting system which they have insisted — AT MAXIMUM VOLUME — is an insidious and untrustworthy black box?

Quinto Dia actually seemed to do just that yesterday:

“Our investigations reveal how and when election fraud is possible, and conclude that the secrecy of the ballot is secure. The key to avoiding possible fraud is the presence of witnesses, who should remain at the voting station until the end. Meanwhile, a survey taken at 20 subway stations by Televen journalists, 80% of 320 persons surveyed said they would vote NO.”Quinto Dia (Venezula), December 2

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
“All the secrets of the electronic vote!”

I will try to translate some of that when I get a chance (although the content is for $ubscribers only). I have been trying to read a number of “beware the coming election fraud!” articles — from 2001, for example — and finding that they are no longer available on the Web sites of the newspapers crawled by the Google News spider.

The CEPR had studied claims of fraud in the 2004 recall referendum put out by two faculty members of the Kennedy School and the Sloan School.

Mark Weisbrot, David Rosnick, and Todd Tucker, “Black Swans, Conspiracy Theories, and the Quixotic Search for Fraud: A Look at Hausmann and Rigobón’s Analysis of Venezuela’s Referendum Vote,” CEPR, September 20, 2004

Eminent rocket scientists.

On September 3, [2004,] economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and Roberto Rigobón of the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, presented econometric results that the authors maintain are evidence of fraud in Venezuela’s August 15 recall referendum. The paper was reported by four major international news outlets and was used to raise doubts about the validity of the referendum among U.S. legislators and policy-makers. It was also used to support claims of fraud by opposition leaders in Venezuela.

Exit polling.

The exit poll used by Hausmann and Rigobón, published by the American polling firm Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates found that 59 percent of voters were in favor of the recall (YES), and 41 percent opposed (NO). This was the opposite of the official results certified by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, in which voters rejected the recall by a margin of 59 percent (NO) to 41 percent (YES).

Choosing to rely on prognostications that predict the opposite of what actually happens. Is this how the Harvard Corporation realizes those remarkable returns on investment from its hedge-fund managers?

It is also unusual that the authors used only this opposition data, and ignored other exit poll data that more closely predicted the official results of the election. For example, exit polling by the American polling firm Evans/McDonough Company, Inc. polled 53,045 voters and found a result of 55% NO to 45% YES 27 .

Veritas 2.0: What is truth, said Pilate, washing his hands?

Weisbrot recordó que en 2004 la empresa encuestadora estadounidense Penn, Schoen y Berland “publicó encuestas falsas a boca de urna” en las que Chávez presuntamente perdió por un margen de 59% contra 41%.

Weisbrot recalls that in 2004 Penn, Schoen & Berland “published false exit-poll results” in which Chávez was supposedly losing 59% to 41%.

SourceWatch on PSB:

Interestingly, PSB was involved in similar charges of “American political interference in Serbia, locus of a $77 million U.S. effort to do with ballots what NATO bombs could not–get rid of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In the run-up to national elections on Sept. 24, U.S. aid officials and contractors are working to strengthen Serbia’s famously fractured democratic opposition. They have helped train its organizers, equipped their offices with computers and fax machines and provided opposition parties with sophisticated voter surveys compiled by the same New York firm that conducts polls for President Clinton” — PSB.

Also worked for Blair and Berluscrony. And Mayor Bloomberg.

Sin embargo, los resultados oficiales en esa ocasión, ratificados por observadores de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y el Centro Carter, “mostraron lo contrario, y que Chávez ganó por un margen de 58 contra 41 por ciento”.

However, the official results, ratified by the OAS and the Carter Center, “show the opposite, and that Chávez won by 58% to 41%.”

Pero esas encuestas no fueron el único problema en el referendo de 2004, ya que otros sondeos previos a esa convocatoria vaticinaban una contienda muy reñida, recordó Weisbrot.

But these exit-polls were not the only problem in 2004, given that other surveys prior to this one predicted a very tight race, Weisbrot recalled.

Para el experto, la mayoría de los medios de comunicación internacionales aceptaron los resultados de esas encuestas, realizadas por la oposición, sin ningún cuestionamiento.

In Weisbrot’s view, most of the international news media accepted the results of these surveys, conducted by the oppositition, without question.

Weisbrot se quejó de la presunta falta de independencia de criterio de los medios a la hora de cubrir el referendo del domingo próximo.

Weisbrot complained of the alleged lack of independent judgment by the media when covering the upcoming Sunday referendum.

Citó como ejemplo que esta semana muchos medios se han hecho eco de una encuesta realizada por Datanalisis, una empresa que tiene vínculos con la oposición y ha vaticinado una derrota de la reforma constitucional en el referendo.

He cited as an example that this week a number of news organization had echoed a survey by Datanálisis, a firm with ties to the opposition, which had predicted a victory for NO.

“La prensa no mencionó los viejos vínculos de la empresa con la oposición y sus graves errores en la encuesta en el referendo de 2004”, puntualizó Weisbrot.

“The press does not mention the firm’s longstanding ties with the opposition and its grave errors in its polling on the 2004 referendum,” Weisbrot said.

It reminds me of Veja magazine (Brazil), with its exposé on the Daniel Dantas “dossier” — prepared by an ex-CIA guy working for Kroll, they reported — which charged that senior government officials had tons of money socked away in Swiss bank accounts.

“We found a number of (unspecified) signs that the dossier was not genuine. And yet we still find it plausible. So we ran it.”

“The ground is dry, but we find other plausible signs that it is currently raining, which is why we are dedicating our cover story to an expert who holds that view: That it is currently raining.”

Remember the old TV ad? Guy to another guy over the lunch table: “Well, my broker is [I forget who], and he says …

Everyone stops to listen in.

This is a bit like, “Well, the principal source of information for my global risk management console is the village idiot, and he says …”


Studying the “black swan” debate.

Someone should do up a timeline of the Datanálisis newsflow, for a postmortem on referendum coverage in the international and nation press, and among the “citizen journalists” battling over  the mantle of Bolíivar.

And I would like to see if EFE has any reaction to Datanálisis calling in another news agency to question the accuracy of their coverage of what it said.


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