Lula faces the final stretch leading in some polls that leave room for doubt | International

Lula (48.6%) is consistently ahead of Bolsonaro (43.8%) in the race to Planalto according to all the polls carried out after the first electoral round. But his advantage is small (less than 5 points), and therefore inconclusive, at least not yet. In fact, this distance is substantially smaller than the total number of undecideds remaining among likely voters. This leaves the battle more open, and in the hands of this group of doubters who prevent either of the two candidates from reaching half plus one of the total.

According to the polling houses, neither of the two candidates who went to the second round would have barely managed to add support if we count as a starting point those that they already obtained on October 2. Not at least in percentage: only 0.4 points more for Bolsonaro, and a meager 0.2 for Lula. As a result, there are as many undecided voters as there are people who opted for third-party candidates in the first round. It should be remembered here that all these quantities are relative: percentages of a mass previously defined as “likely voters.” But the exits and entrances of that mass (and, therefore, towards abstention) count as much or more than the transfers between its components (the candidacies).

Most polls put him below 50% (and none beyond 51, where he is ranked two). The advantage attributed to him varies from 0.4 to 9 points. The average is 4.8. This is a value almost identical to the one that resulted from the first round: 5.2. The biggest surprise at the time was precisely this figure, which was half of what was expected by the demographic consensus. In other words: the biggest mistake of the majority of polling houses then occurred in the underestimation of the electoral potential of Jair Bolsonaro. It was almost arguably the only major flaw, in fact. Everything else was fulfilled as expected by the polls, which correctly reported the essential contours of the result: Lula would be ahead of the current president, both would be well above the rest of the candidates, but neither of them would reach the necessary 50% to save the second round.

Despite all these successes, the focus of the public debate since the night of October 2 quickly turned to error with the right. This fixation on errors is common in post-election periods, and could be explained from a cognitive perspective: if polls are a mirror in which society hopes to see itself reflected, distortion will always draw more attention than success. Even a person who has never had a mirror before him can feel his face and count two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth. In the same way, a society can, clumsily and imperfectly, explore itself through more or less general conversations (in bars, on social networks or in the media) and at least know that there was no realistic rival for Lula or Bolsonaro. . In addition, once we confirm what we intuited in front of the mirror, the prognosis becomes a landscape. It is assigned a 100% probability and we stop using it as a criterion to evaluate the quality of the prediction. Paradoxically, this turns attention to where the greatest uncertainty remains, precisely what is most difficult for both clumsy and precise methods to anticipate.

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Now, not everything is cognitive bias. There is an analytical and forward-looking sense in that attention: after all, having reached a second round with only two candidates, a hypothetical significant error with one of them could mean, now, an error also in the essential: anticipating the winner. It is too early to guess, and there is still time for the undecided to make up their minds, and for the polls to adjust methods. But, for now, there is at least one indication to be alert: there is a negative correlation between the error that each pollster made with the last poll published by her regarding Bolsonaro, and the vote that they predict for him today. That is to say: whoever underestimated the current president then today continues to have him in the low band, despite the fact that everyone already assumes that he will have at least a value similar to that obtained on day 2 at the polls. In this way it can be seen that there has been an upward adjustment, yes, but all have adjusted more or less proportionally to where they were before that Sunday.

While the average distance anticipated by these same pollsters between the two candidates is less than the total number of declared undecided, it would be enough that, as happened on October 2, a majority of them decided for the current president for that advantage to be would reduce dramatically. So the polls did not see this turn.

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