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Araya campaign inflates latest poll numbers

April 8, 2014

The ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) seems to be bending the truth about candidate Johnny Araya’s chances of winning the upcoming Feb. 2 presidential election in a first-round vote.

On Friday, Araya’s campaign sent out a press release claiming that the most recent elections poll, published by University of Costa Rica weekly newspaper Semanario Universidad, showed the candidate likely within reach of a first-round victory, which requires 40 percent of the vote.

In the press release, campaign chief Antonio Álvarez Desanti said the poll results showed that – among decided voters – Araya was close to the 40 percent support required to win without a runoff.

The University of Costa Rica’s poll, released on Tuesday, did show Araya in first place, but with only 20.4 percent support, ahead of his nearest rival José María Villalta, of the Broad Front Party, at 15.3 percent.

“These results confirm that with the organization and the size of PLN, we are guaranteed a triumph in the first round,” Álvarez said in the statement.

Under the most generous reading of “decided voters,” Araya would still fall short of 40 percent. In Semanario’s poll a number of respondents did not pick a candidate, did not respond or said they were not voting. These respondents totaled 35.7 percent of the survey. Excluding these numbers, Araya’s support increases to 27.7 percent.

Similarly, Villalta’s support would increase to 20.9 percent. Semanario Universidad’s poll indicated a high probability of a runoff between these two candidates. Araya’s camp rightly noted that the poll predicted a runoff victory over Villalta or third-place candidate Otto Guevara.

If no candidate succeeds on getting more than 40 percent of the vote on Feb. 2, the top two candidates go to a runoff in April. This has only happened once, in 2002.

A January CID-Gallup poll showed Araya with 39 percent support, within reach of the runoff-breaking threshold. La Nación published a January poll that showed Araya in a virtual three-way tie with Villalta and Guevara.

This isn’t the first time critics have accused the Araya campaign of playing fast and loose. On Tuesday night, Facebook users criticized a photo Araya posted of a campaign rally in Guanacaste’s provincial capital of Liberia. Araya critics accused the candidate of using Photoshop to exaggerate the number of supporters who turned out for the rally.

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