So we're going to lose tonight. Probably by a lot.
The reason is straightforward; a polling cliché, really. Control the question and you control the answer. Not much more to it than that.
Even Penn & Teller know this:
In a referendum, framing is everything. Control what people figure they're voting on and you control the result. Even subtle changes in question wording can have noticeable impacts on polling results. More substantial changes in framing can have very substantial effects on the answers you get, as the Pew Research Center found out just before the invasion of Iraq:
When people were asked whether they would: "favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule," 68% said they favored military action while 25% said they opposed military action. However, when asked whether they would "favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule even if it meant that U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties," responses were dramatically different; only 43% said they favored military action while 48% said they opposed it. The introduction of U.S. casualties altered the context of the question and influenced whether people favored or opposed military action in Iraq.'To pollsters, that's old hat.
We know Chavismo wrote a deliriously partisan ballot question, and that in itself would probably be worth a few points to them today. But more importantly, they enjoyed a hugely disproportionate share of the resources used to frame the referendum's meaning in voters' minds'. I've written a lot about this recently, so I won't go over it again here.
Long story short: the fraud's already happened. We're playing with a marked deck.
I want to be clear about what I mean by this. I have no doubt that the results announced by Lucena tonight will accurately reflect the actual votes cast by people at the polls today. As I've explained many times before, you can't get away with numerical fraud where paper ballots are checked against electronic results.
So no, there will be no capital "F", old-school, ballot-stuffing Fraud. But little "f"
The Sí will win by a comfortable margin tonight. 10 points, easy. Possibly more. I hope I'm wrong. But I know I'm not.
The existential problem for chavismo starts tomorrow, not today.