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2006-06-16 15:47:00
Embassy Mexico
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DE RUEHME #3325/01 1671547
R 161547Z JUN 06
						C O N F I D E N T I A L MEXICO 003325 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/15/2016


EASONS, 1.4 (B/D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a June 15 meeting, Maria de las Heras,
one of Mexico's most respected pollsters, told poloff that
she believed that if the election were held today, the Party
of the Democratic Revolution's (PRD) Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador (AMLO) would defeat the National Action Party's (PAN)
Felipe Calderon by a narrow margin, not exceeding three
percent. She said AMLO has enjoyed momentum ever since the
candidates' June 6 debate, when AMLO accused Calderon of
influence peddling on behalf of a relative. De las Heras --
who has close ties with the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI) -- reports that according to her polling, the PRI's
Roberto Madrazo remains in contention, with his third place
poll result falling within the margin of error. She believes
that at this late stage in the campaign, the final result may
turn on the quality of the parties' get-out-the-vote
operation, an area in which she asserts the PRD holds a
decided advantage over the PAN. END SUMMARY.

AMLO Enjoys Post-Debate Bounce


2. (C) On June 15, poloff met with Maria de las Heras,
Director General of the polling firm Demotecnica, and widely
considered to be among Mexico's leading pollsters. She told
poloff that based on her most recent poll, published in
Milennio on June 13, AMLO enjoys a slight lead over Calderon,
34.2% to 31%, with Roberto Madrazo trailing closely behind at
29.6%. She said that all three leading candidates were
within the poll's margin of error, notwithstanding the
assertion of some observers that this had become a two-man
race. She agreed that AMLO has enjoyed momentum ever since
the June 6 candidates' debate, in which he put Calderon on
the defensive by accusing the latter's brother-in-law of tax
evasion and of benefiting improperly from state contracts.
De las Heras noted that at this late stage in the campaign,
the parties' grass-roots operation could make a huge
difference, and that the PRD's get-out-the-vote operation was
far superior to that of the PAN. She concluded that if the
election were held today, AMLO would win, albeit by a margin
of no more than three percent.

Don't Count the PRI Out


3. (C) De las Heras repeatedly emphasized that according to
her polling, Roberto Madrazo remained in contention, arguing
that rival polls showing him in a distant third place were
methodologically flawed. She explained that other pollsters
attribute the same likelihood of voting to professed PAN, PRD
and PRI supporters, whereas in her judgment, those voters who
admit at this late date to supporting the PRI tend to be more

committed to their candidate than most professed PRD and PAN
voters. As she believes PRI supporters are more likely to
vote -- and as the PRI has the most extensive grass-roots
machinery to bring its voters to the polls -- she believes
that rival polls underestimate the party's strength.

4. (C) Note: Some question the objectivity of De las Heras's
polls because she works for the PRI and her husband, Cesar
Augusto Santiago, is one of Roberto Madrazo's closest
operatives. On the other hand, it is worth noting that she
was the only pollster to accurately call the 2000 election
for the PAN's Vicente Fox, despite her longstanding
association with the PRI. End note.

Discounting the Significance of "Strategic Voting"



5. (C) De las Heras discounted the significance of
"strategic voting," which assumes that voters hoping to keep
a particular candidate -- in this case, AMLO -- out of office
would vote for the strongest of his two rivals, regardless of
their usual party affiliation. She said strategic voting may
have been a factor in 2000, as at that time PRD voters agreed
with their PAN counterparts on the necessity of defeating the
PRI; many were willing to vote for the PAN's Vicente Fox over
the PRD's Cuauhetemoc Cardenas, as Fox was by far the
stronger opposition candidate. She said such strategic
voting was unlikely to be a major factor this year because
(i) the third place candidate, Roberto Madrazo, remains in
contention, so his voters are unlikely to desert him, and
(ii) unlike in 2000, this year the public is nearly equally
divided in thirds as to which party it wishes to keep out of
power. She questioned the logic of those in the PAN who
sought to weaken the PRI in the hopes of attracting defecting
PRI voters, arguing that PRI voters were more likely to
defect to the PRD than to the PAN. (Note: A poll published
in the June 15 Reforma contradicts de las Heras's assertion.
According to this poll, 11% of the voting public would be
willing to vote for an alternate candidate if they believed
their preferred candidate had no possibility of winning;
under those circumstances, 28% of Madrazo supporters said
they would switch their vote to Calderon, whereas only 22%
said they would switch to AMLO. End note.)

Negative Campaign Hurts the PAN


6. (C) De las Heras noted that the AMLO's attacks on
Calderon's "inconvenient brother-in-law" had clearly taken a
toll on the candidate's public support, and she expected the
PRD to continue with this tactic. She argued, however, that
a PAN-led negative campaign against AMLO would have far less
traction because over the years, AMLO's political rivals have
attacked him on so many different issues that they have
largely inoculated him against attack. She believes the PAN
would have to come up with a truly spectacular revelation for
it to significantly damage AMLO.

Focusing on Instability


7. (C) Turning to the volatile teachers' union strike now
taking place in Oaxaca, she opined that the current unrest
would likely discourage turnout in that state. Likewise, the
PRI-led state government's poor handling of the crisis will
likely sour the public on the PRI. Since the PRI, followed
by the PRD, are by far the two strongest parties in Oaxaca, a
diminished turnout would inure to the benefit of the PAN;
although the PAN was unlikely to pick up many votes in
Oaxaca, the PRI's and PRD's vote totals there would be

8. (C) She said she was most concerned about a recent poll
revealing that 13% of Mexicans expected there to be
post-election unrest in their own communities. She said she
had not seen such a high percentage respond affirmatively to
this question since the 1990 Mexico state elections, the
first major election held after the Carlos Salinas's suspect
victory over Cuauhetemoc Cardenas in the 1988 presidential
race. She said that the question asked in this particular
poll, focusing on the situation in voters' own communities,
was far more telling than the more general question of
whether voters expected post-election unrest; voters were
unlikely to respond affirmatively to the former question
unless they knew of neighbors who were preparing for or at
least speaking about possible demonstrations.

Comment: Giving Madrazo the Benefit of the Doubt?



9. (C) Throughout our conversation, de las Heras seemed
particularly ill-disposed towards Calderon, and appeared to
give Madrazo the benefit of every possible doubt. We cannot
rule out that she is under pressure to use her polling to
support Madrazo; her antipathy towards Calderon may also be
explained by his public criticism of her June 13 poll showing
him in second place. Whether or not de las Heras is
completely objective in her opinions -- we tend to doubt her
finding that Madrazo is within striking distance -- her
perception that AMLO now holds a slight lead is consistent
with the findings of most other pollsters. Her opinion that
the PRD's get-out-the-vote operation is superior to that of
the PAN is also noteworthy.

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