Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Monday, November 30, 2009

TSE and exit polls "Only differ in abstentionism"

To recap: last night, at the official TSE press conference, the exit polling service announced turnout projections of under 50%; while the TSE itself said they thought the turnout would be over 60%.

One does not even have to delve into the on-the-ground reports by international observers and resistance activists, who saw light turnout where they were watching polls, to worry about why the two TSE numbers are so far apart.

In an article this morning in Tiempo on the declaration of Pepe Lobo as winner, the second paragraph says that
En la presentación de los resultados se produjo una polémica porque mientras el Tribunal Supremo Electoral proclamó que el abstencionismo fue del 38. 7 por ciento, la Fundación Hagamos Democracia, que tiene un centro de cómputo similar al del organismo electoral, dijo que fue de 52. 4 por ciento.

[In the presentation of the results a controversy was produced because while the TSE proclaimed that abstentionism was 38.7%, the FHD, which has a center of computation similar to the electoral organism, said that it was 52.4%]
This is reporting on the same press conference we listened to live last night. The Fundación Hagamos Democracia is the exit polling entity in Honduras under contract to the TSE.

Later in the article Tiempo notes that
Ortez Sequeira leyó el informe de la Fundación Hagamos Democracia que establece que a esas alturas Porfirio Lobo Sosa tenía el 55. 72 por ciento de los votos frente a 38. 50 por ciento de Elvin Santos, resultados que a su juicio son similares a los del Tribunal Supremo Electoral y que únicamente difieren en el abstencionismo.

[Ortez Sequeira read the report of the FHD that established that at these levels Porfirio Lobo Sosa had 55.72 % of the votes against 38.5% for Elvin Santos, results that in his judgment are similar to those of the TSE and that they only differ in abstentionism.]
Well, duh.

So let's take a close look at the votes Tiempo reports, announced at the same time by the TSE:


number of votes

percentage of total

Porfirio Lobo



Elvin Santos



Bernardo Martinez



Felícito Avila



César Ham



Votos Blancos



Votos Nulos






Take a good look here at the number of blank and null votes: 109,535 out of 1,716,027 reported; 6.38% of the votes cast are ambiguous, and this should include protest votes.

So the percentage of valid votes represents either 41.22% of the eligible voters (if we take the exit polling as our guide, and deduct the invalid votes) or 54.92% (if we take the declared turnout estimate of the TSE, which international media have accepted, and again, deduct the invalid votes).

We would suggest people need to look carefully and skeptically at the real vote counts as they come in.

By people, we mean scholars and interested public, obviously, not the US State Department, which would recognize the election no matter what.

While Tiempo has been the sole newspaper abstaining from pro-coup reporting, it is not pro-resistance either; it seems genuinely to be trying to uphold some ideal of reliable journalism.

What the election results reported there are telling us is that, far from transparent, the more than 60% participation rate the TSE wants us to circulate (which differs from their official polling agency's estimate of under 50%-- which would be in keeping with normal expectations, given previous trends) has to be looked at skeptically.

It is good propaganda: but it literally is unbelievable.


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

Thanks for this analysis.

Given the polarization in Honduras it would be helpful if someone did an analysis based on the correlation of economic status of the polling area and the turnout. That might not be possible. And it might be even more interesting to see if the rich neighborhoods had a higher percentage of turnouts this year than four years ago.

RAJ said...

Not scientific, but I just was on a public radio program with someone from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who observed elections in Tegucigalpa. So, not an observer biased toward social justice.

He said that in 13 polling places they visited, turn out ranged from an estimated 30-40% in "lower barrios" (I think he meant lower economic or lower class) to 60-70% in wealthy areas.

So yes, I think there is an analysis that will need to be done on how voting varied by class. But I am concerned with the potential for such analyses to play into an unfortunate narrative that exists, which is that only the poor and uneducated were in favor of Zelaya's policies or, more important, opposed to the coup and its consequences. Because my own personal network is not the poor and uneducated, I know that the resistance spans many classes and occupations, races and income categories.

John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

I do think there are some class interests involved but from here it's pretty clear that opposition to the coup did go beyond class. I do see the danger that you mention. I think that a lot may have to do with one's consciousness of classism - regardless of one's class.

Have you seen Ismael Moreno's analysis - - "Después de ZElaya" in Envio? He writes about the three "groups" in the opposition to the coup.

RAJ said...

Thanks for the pointer. This is important analysis: and it will be critical as Honduras attempts to move forward, since regardless of opinions about turnout or fairness, the elections do not in any way address the conditions that led to the current situation.

My brother, who is a Methodist minister, with whom we are staying over this holiday, asked me today what I want to see happen. Yesterday we heard him preach a sermon on the theme "First do no harm". I told him that my wish was that the next steps would be framed not around solving the crisis, or assessing the election-- but helping Hondurans to engage in dialogue across the differences that have become so toxic.