U.S. Poll Firm in Hot Water in Venezuela
The Associated Press
Thursday 19 August 2004
CARACAS, Venezuela Aug. 19, 2004 — A U.S. firm's exit poll that said President Hugo Chavez would lose a recall referendum has landed in the center of a controversy following his resounding victory.
"Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez," the survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, asserted even as Sunday's voting was still on. But in fact, the opposite was true Chavez ended up trouncing his enemies and capturing 59 percent of the vote.
Any casual observer of the 2000 U.S. presidential elections knows exit polls can at times be unreliable. But the poll has become an issue here because the opposition, which mounted the drive to force the leftist leader from office, insists it shows the results from the vote itself were fraudulent. The opposition also claims electronic voting machines were rigged, but has provided no evidence.
Election officials banned publication or broadcast of any exit polls during the historic vote on whether to oust Chavez, a populist who has sought to help the poor and is reviled by the wealthy, who accuse him of stoking class divisions.
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