Polls, the new primary elections | Opinion

For practical purposes, candidate measurements or evaluations are becoming a primary election process for political parties in Mexico. In the absence of a regulation or body within the institutes that resolves their candidacies, surveys have become a very useful instrument.

It is very likely that the method has shortcomings and can be perfected, but for practical purposes it is working for both the ruling party and the opposition coalition. It is revealing that they have reached the same process almost simultaneously, at least as far as their candidacies for the presidency of the Republic are concerned.

If this is so de facto, it is likely that it will be necessary to think about an electoral reform that could provide a more institutional channel. Not necessarily to establish a primary internal election with in-person participation, but it would be useful to have guidelines so that the measurement has minimum requirements, such as having a probabilistic, representative sample, carried out in the home, face to face, with a balanced questionnaire, As minimum.

Electoral measurements or evaluations do not have to differ if the measurements carried out are mirror images. That is, their questions are similar, the questionnaire is in the same order, they are carried out on similar dates, and it has the same sample design.

Although the measurement methods are very similar, the decision-making questions are often very different. An application can be resolved in a single question or in a series of questions with a scoring scheme. There is no perfect method, the important thing is that the method is accepted by all parties.

Measuring the potential of a candidate is not easy, especially because it largely depends on what happens in a campaign. What may be a very competitive candidate at one point in the electoral contest could be very weak later.

The two fundamental variables are the level of knowledge and the opinion one has of a candidate. There are different ways to ask about the level of knowledge. The least rigorous is whether you know or have heard the candidate’s name. Another may be to ask if the candidate in question is known.

The image of the evaluated character can consider only positive opinions or can obtain a balance between positive and negative ones. There may be candidates who have very positive opinions, but if these are of the same magnitude as the negative ones, they become a rather controversial candidate of questionable merit. In a Cartesian plane the best position for a candidate is at the top right, in the upper right corner.


Without a doubt, one of the biggest advantages of this selection method is the cost. The cost is lower in two dimensions, the economic and the political. In economic terms, it is much cheaper than organizing an internal election where people have to go to the polls. In the political dimension, this can be reduced if the measurement is agreed upon in technical terms and the decisive question is accepted by all parties.

In democratic terms, it can be argued that, unlike a primary election where a candidate’s supporters come out to vote, in this case participation is irrelevant. The measurement is made on 100 percent of the electorate. In these terms it could be defined as a more democratic instrument or practice, but it is certainly an argument that lends itself to controversy.


Some analysts view the last advantage mentioned critically because they consider that participation is a fundamental democratic element. That is to say, it is not enough to go and ask the citizens, they have to express themselves by going to the polls.

Another criticism has to do with the partisan preference of those interviewed. Unlike an internal election where only those who prefer or have a partisan identity with the party that carries out its internal contest would participate, with this mechanism the entire electorate is usually selected regardless of their affiliation.

This criticism can be overcome if the population of interest is filtered, that is, the Morenistas and their allies or, if the measurement were for the Frente Amplio, it could be filtered by the sympathizers of PAN, PRI and PRD.

Finally, the truth is that the measurements carried out for the selection of candidates have turned out to be very similar in their results. This should not be surprising, because the result is not modeled, nor is it compared with the result of an election where the participation element intervenes. The measurement is made on 100% of the electorate.

Polls as a substitute for primary elections are, without a doubt, a controversial issue, but the truth is that today they are proving very useful to parties in deciding their candidacies.

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