November 24, 2008

Approval for the New Constitution

MABB © ®

Angus Reid has a poll that asks if Bolivians approve the new constitution.

The majority of people in Bolivia agree with the revised version of a new Constitution, according to a poll by Equipos MORI. 56% of respondents support the changes to the new charter agreed upon by government officials and members of the opposition.
The data can be found here.


The above graph is from La Prensa and presents a more condensed situation. Perhaps more to the reality. As you can see the black bars represent approval of the constitution and the white bars represent disapproval. In Santa Cruz, Trinidad, Tarija and Sucre, the people will not accept the new document as the new constitution. While, clearly, La Paz, El Alto, Oruro and Potosi will vote to accept the new constitution. The battle-ground is (to use an American elections term) Cochabamba. Three percentage points separates the yes from the no, in favor of the yes.

According to the simple average I took based on the above data, the constitution has an approval rate of 43%, while 39% of the people disapproves of it. This is a significantly different number from the number I quoted from Angus Reid above. I don't know whether they use a different source, but it seems they base their numbers on the same Mori survey.

One more thing to observe is the percentage of undecided, the gray bar. According to the numbers above around 19% of the electorate are not sure they'll support the new constitution. What is more interesting is that in the departments where the no-vote is higher, the undecided seem to be higher. In the departments where the yes-vote is higher there seems to be less undecided, with perhaps the exception of La Paz, where the undecided vote makes 33%.

One thing seems to be clear, if the vote would be now, it looks like the new constitution would be approved. The campaigns have started and it seems it will be a hard fought battle. I expect the government to continue bombarding people with adds through radio and TV. Likewise, I expect the opposition to do the same, but at a more local level. In the end, I think the difference will be that the government has a national strategy and the opposition doesn't. If the opposition will coordinate at a national level perhaps it will have a chance. That is, provided they have the same funds the government will have at its disposal.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to know how many of the population truly understand the changes in the constitution (or the constitution, for that matter) My guess is very few.

mcentellas said...

@Anonymous: Few probably do understand the constitution. But that holds true in any country. And the same holds for most referendum issues anywhere in the world, including the advanced industrial democracies. It's up to the various stake-holders to "get their message" out to voters, who then decide. Bottom line: the argument that few Bolivians "understand" the new constitution just isn't relevant.

Anonymous said...

I agree that many people, including those in industrialized nations, know much, if any, of their respective constitutions. Who has the time or interest to read such long and tedious documents that may change every few years? (I'm biased to the brevity and relatively unchanged US Constitution, though)

I'm specifically referring to the referendum questions you posted a few days ago. I had to read them at least 3 times to have a basic idea what was being asked. For example, who knows what article 398 is? What is a "social function?"

It reminds me of the time when a journalist interviewed a protestor from Vilma Plata's gang during the mid 1990s against "las leyes malditas," the capitalization laws. When asked what the "leyes malditas" were, the protestor admitted she didn't know, and that she was just doing what Vilma Plata told her to do. This situation was and is the rule, not the exception.

So yes, I believe that it's relevant that Bolivians know what they're getting into.

Kevin said...

The key to the vote on the constitution is again the Electoral List. Some sources say 200,000 deceased people voted in the referendum on evo/prefects and apparently they all voted for evo... the MAS will use GOB funds and logistics and the dead will again vote often. Just as in Nicaragua - thes votes are far from fair.

mabb said...

I agree with both of you. It seems to me you are saying that there is a need for the population to know (perhaps not exactly) what the constitution says. I am talking about a basic knowledge of the content here.

As for the votes, I think the CNE is right in asking for an audit of the national register and id system. The electoral register or list of voters, if you will, is in the process of being audited.

And yes, that is a serious problem!

dv said...

@mcentellas: It may be true that the citizens of most countries don't know their own constitution, but I would hardly consider not knowing what you are voting for irrelevant. If people vote for something they don't understand they deserve what they get. The government is asking for approval of this constitution so the ball is in their court to get the information out. I don't know about you but when I have to vote for an amendment to law and I cant figure out exactly what that change means, I vote no.

mcentellas said...

I'm not suggesting that it's makes no difference whether people "understand" what they're voting for or not. Only that the idea that voters should (or even can!) ever operate under perfect information is unrealistic. Even if they "understand" what the issues, candidates, etc. are, they may still vote for any number of reasons (they like the candidate's hair, they flip a coin to decide on an issue, etc). So while it matters, what REALLY matters is that organizations mobilize voters to their causes. That's why elections are essentially a turnout/mobilization game. If you think voters should favor/oppose something, it's your prerogative to convince them to vote w/ you. Asking everyone to quietly deliberate w/ perfect information is asking too much--in ANY society.

dv said...

To me, the voter hopefully sets a different standard when voting for constitutional law. Voting for a candidate is different. It involves using whatever you value to judge the character of a persons future actions and in any case you get regular elections to change your mind. Constitutional law, on the other hand, is made up of laws which (hopefully) will be respected and cannot be changed easily. In any case with a law, unlike a candidate, you have no excuse because the product is right in front of you. So if there is a question about the effect of a proposed constitutional law the smart thing to me is to insist that it be clarified before you vote yes. I dont mean that everyone should have perfect information or use the same standards to judge whether a law is safe and acceptable, but I hope they make a decision based on the law and not solely based on what some political organization says. The political groups on both sides have agendas that often are more important to them then the law they are advocating.

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.
--John F. Kennedy

mcentellas said...

But you forget that laws are extremely complicated. There are more than 400 articles in the proposed constitution. If I oppose half of them, but support the other half, how should I vote? Or should I weight some issues higher than others?

And despite JFK's nice quote, all voters are ignorant (to some degree or other). The beauty if the republican system the US Founding Fathers left behind is that it neither assumes nor demands that voters have perfect information (or even that they be moral!). Voting is by nature an imperfect system. That's why democracies are (to use Juan Linz's expression) a "pro tempore" form of government. People must be able to change their minds later on.

Anonymous said...

More interestingly, how many lawmakers have read and/or understood the current constitution and the proposed one in their entirety? They're supposed to be more informed than the population.

dv said...

@mcentellas: I think a voter can tell if s/he thinks a particular article is a show-stopper from their point of view.

Yes all voters are ignorant of one thing or other, but I think the idea is that if we each actually weigh the issues in our own minds we will come to a reasonable answer most of the time. But people need to actually look at what they are voting for an not just listen to the demagogues on each side. They have agendas and there is no way that their concerns match our own. They sometimes even mislead voters.

Perfect information isnt required, we each need to make a good faith effort to reduce our ignorance because that strengthens our decision. If we could get by with a few experts interpreting our desires then communism would be the perfect system. This is what I meant by the JFK quote.

Also isn't a super majority required to change the new constitution now? Its not so easy to change your mind later on with a constitution.

Marcelo said...

I agree with your comments, people should be informed to some extent about the Constitution to cast their vote. But, as I see the numbers, it seems more a vote against or in favor of Evo Morales and his policies. Those approval rates look similar than those when people voted in favor or against the "prefectos". If it is so, then knowing the constitution's text is irrelevant, because people already made up their minds, Bolivia a-la Evo or not.

Regarding the differences between your national approval rate (43%), and the approval rate obtained by Angus Reid (56%), it might be due to the fact that each city has a different "weight". For instance, La Paz has more population than Tarija, so it must have a larger weight in the national average.

mabb said...

Both reports cited Mori as the source of that data. That was the question, why the discrepancy?

You remind me of a post I wrote years ago about the possible bias, I thought, Mori had in its reported numbers because they only polled people in the "eje troncal". They argued that was a representative sample. I argued that was a skewed sample and not representative.

And, also, that is exactly the question. Whether is relevant or not for the people to know what is written in the constitution.

My take is, people should know, but at the same time, perfect information does not exist.