Chavez leads rival in latest poll

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 27, 2012 11:30 AM
Chavez leads rival in latest poll

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has a solid 13-percentage point lead over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the latest opinion poll ahead of October's election in the South American nation, but many voters remain undecided.

The survey by respected local pollster Datanalisis found that 44 percent of voters favor Chavez compared to 31 percent for Democratic Unity coalition candidate Capriles, according to people who saw a private presentation.

No further details were available for the poll, which was to be formally published later in the week.

Chavez, 57, who is undergoing radiation therapy in Cuba after cancer surgery, remains popular into his 14th year in power due to his strong personal connection with the poor and heavy, oil-financed spending on welfare policies.

Surveys consistently show that up to a third of Venezuelans are undecided, indicating there will be a fierce battle between Chavez's and Capriles' camps to win them over on October 7.

State governor Capriles, 39, is widely seen as the best hope the opposition has had of unseating Chavez and is embarking on a nationwide, "house-by-house" tour intended to give him national recognition and improve his standing in the polls.

Only one recent poll, by local firm Consultores 21, has put Capriles anywhere near Chavez, just 1 percentage point behind.

Three surveys earlier in March found Chavez's support at between 52-57 percent, versus 22-34 percent for Capriles.

Capriles, a center-left politician campaigning on a platform of ending confrontation and solving grassroots problems, wants to bring Brazilian-style progress to Venezuela, with free-market economics alongside strong social welfare programs.

Chavez, known for his radical populism, nationalizations and fierce anti-U.S. rhetoric, says Capriles is a representative of Venezuela's discredited oligarchy. The Venezuelan leader was due to address Venezuelans later on Tuesday from Cuba, where he is on a trip to undergo radiation treatment.

(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Will Dunham)