Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ignoring Inaccuracy at the Washington Post



On April 10, Washington Post columnist and deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl penned a column arguing that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is not very popular and has little democratic legitimacy. FAIR sent the following letter to Diehl on April 18, questioning the accuracy of his comments and his overall thesis.

FAIR's letter has so far received no response. If you would like to see Diehl respond to questions of accuracy raised by FAIR, you can contact him and his editor, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, at:

Jackson Diehl: diehlj@washpost.com

Fred Hiatt: hiattf@washpost.com

April 18, 2005

Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post

Dear Jackson Diehl:

In your column, "In Venezuela, Locking Up the Vote" (4/10/06), you write that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "has never enjoyed overwhelming support in Venezuela," adding, "his ratings have mostly fluctuated a few points above and below 50 percent."

While the term "overwhelming support" may be somewhat subjective, Chavez has won three elections with 59 percent or more of the popular vote. In the U.S. context, such winning percentages would be considered landslides, comparable to Ronald Reagan’s win with 59 percent of the vote over Walter Mondale in 1984.

What is less subjective is the record on Hugo Chavez’s approval ratings. A recent report in your own paper (12/5/05) pegged Chavez's support at 68 percent, as measured by the opposition Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis. In May 2005, Datanalisis reported his support at 71 percent.

According to a Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis poll published last week, 60 percent of respondents characterized Chavez's presidential performance as either excellent (18 percent) or good (42 percent). Only 16 percent rated Chavez as "average to bad" or worse.

A February 2006 poll by North American Opinion Research Inc. found 66 percent of Venezuelan respondents saying they would vote for Chavez in the election later this year--more than four times the number who say they would vote for all other candidates combined. And on a related issue, the Chilean polling firm Latinobarómetro found more people in Venezuela considered their country "totally democratic" than in any other nation in Latin America.

In light of this polling data, we are curious as to how you would justify your assertion that Chavez's "ratings have mostly fluctuated a few points above and below 50 percent." It's a claim that cries out for either explanation or correction.

Steve Rendall
Senior Analyst

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