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Costa Rican daily La Nación cancels presidential election poll, citing ‘inconvenient’ timing

The daily La Nación has decided not to publish a final elections poll scheduled for Wednesday by polling firm Unimer, because it is “too close” to Election Day. In one week, Costa Ricans will head to the polls to elect a new president and Legislative Assembly.

According to La Nación Editor-in-Chief Yanancy Noguera, the decision was made last week not to move forward with the Unimer poll in order to avoid “more confusion.” Noguera cited three previous polls that had drawn inconclusive results when compared with each other, and a high number of undecided voters, just days before the Feb. 2 election.

“It has to do with undecided voters,” Noguera told The Tico Times. “Instead of contributing (to helping voters make up their minds), … it (the poll) would have instead generated more confusion.”

She didn’t explain why another poll would confuse undecided voters, other than repeating it would be inconvenient for them.

Noguera said La Nación has been satisfied with previous polls conducted by Unimer, and that the polling firm had not shared any new results or statistics with the newspaper before the decision was made last week.

The three most recent polls – one by Unimer and published in La Nación, a second by CID-Gallup and published by La República, and a third by the University of Costa Rica, published in Semanario Universidad – obtained notably different results.

The Unimer-La Nación poll, published on Jan. 16, had three candidates in a dead heat for the presidential race: the Broad Front Party’s José María Villalta, the ruling National Liberation Party’s Johnny Araya and the Libertarian Movement Party’s Otto Guevara.

CID-Gallup had Araya just 1 percentage point away from capturing the 40 percent of votes needed to become elected and avoid an April runoff.

The UCR poll also listed Araya as the leader among decided voters, but with only 20.4 percent of projected votes, compared with Villalta’s 15.3 percent. Guevara and Luis Guillermo Solís, of the Citizen Action Party, were in a statistical tie for third place with 11.2 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Undecided voters totaled 24.5 percent.

Given the current circumstances, it would be inconvenient to publish a poll so close to the elections,” Noguera said.

Despite those comments, rumors circulated Monday that La Nación was suppressing numbers that showed Solís gaining significant ground, a charge Noguera denied.

In 2010, La Nación published a Unimer poll on Wednesday, Feb. 3, just five days before voters elected the PLN’s Laura Chinchilla.

Alleged poll numbers that had circulated in La Nación’s newsroom and that were sent to The Tico Times by an anonymous source appeared to show that support for Solís had jumped by more than 8 percent. If accurate, the result would place him among the top four presidential candidates in a virtual tie.

The Tico Times asked Unimer Central America President Carlos Paniagua to comment on those circulating numbers, as well as to verify Noguera’s statements, and he responded in an email by saying only, “There are numbers of supposed results circulating, and the ones you mention are another example of that.”

Chatter also has come from inside Solís’ campaign about La Nación’s decision.

“The newspaper has the right to do what it wants,” said Solís’ campaign manager Melvin Jiménez. “But what’s clear to us is that from the beginning we have been invisible. Our own internal polling shows significant progress. … Polls are designed to help people make up their minds, so if they started one, I think they should publish the results.”

UPDATE: La Nación posted a tweet explaining that they “made the decision to cancel the last Unimer poll due to the electoral climate.” The note states that the daily “considered it inconvenient to publish poll results a few days before a election.”

Once again, we’ll point out that La Nación published a presidential election poll five days before the election in 2010. But during that election, polls showed Chinchilla heading toward an easy victory.

UPDATE 2: On Tuesday, La Nacíon wrote an editorial expanding on their decision to cancel the poll.  The editorial said: “Under the circumstances of this election, we didn’t see the value of publishing results a few days before people go to the polls — we didn’t think it would help clear up doubts.”

The editorial repeated that it didn’t make sense to publish the poll due to the large amount of undecided voters. It explained that the poll would be inaccurate since all the undecided voters would become decided voters in five days. La Nación denied ever seeing the actual results.

UPDATE 3: We thought La Nación’s editorial didn’t make any sense. So we asked @SamWangPhD, who perfectly forecast the 2012 U.S presidential election, what he thought. You won’t want to miss what he said.

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