With one week remaining in the campaign, President Danilo Medina is poised for re-election, with a commanding 23-point lead over Luis Abinader. Medina’s lead among the total electorate is relatively stable at 57 to 34 percent. Among Dominicans most likely to vote, Medina grows to 58 percent of the vote share (down 2 points since April), with Abinader at 34 percent (up 2 points); Guillermo Moreno falls a point to 1 percent, and the remaining candidates receive under 1 percent of the vote; 2 percent of likely voters remain undecided.
To best predict Sunday’s outcome, the Diario Libre poll allocates these undecided voters (based on their preferences elsewhere in the survey). After allocating undecided likely voters, Medina reaches 60 percent, with Abinader at 37 percent – the most likely result on Election Day.
The nationwide survey fielded 28 April through 2 May and was designed and analyzed by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, an international polling and consulting firm based in Washington, DC. One thousand and thirty-four Dominican adults were interviewed, of which 739 were identified as likely voters (representing 71 percent of the voting-age population). The margin of error on random samples of 1,034 and 739 are plus or minus 3.1 and 3.6 percent, respectively, at confidence intervals of 95 percent.
As with all elections, turnout matters, especially the demographic profile of who comes out to the polls. Medina retains his historical advantage among female voters: he wins women by 31 points, beating Abinader 61 to 30 percent. Among men, Medina’s lead is still strong, but by half at 15 points (54 to 39 percent). Abinader sees the most improvement among men over 35 years old – among this cohort, his vote grows 6 points since April, and he only trails Medina 3 points, 48 to 45 percent.
Younger voters are also most enthusiastic about Medina’s second term. The President wins 66 percent of voters under 25 years old, up 4 points from April. Abinader’s strength again lies with older voters – in fact, the only age group he wins is voters over 65, where his vote has grown steadily since the start of the campaign; among this group, he has a 4-point lead over Medina.
“It is truly remarkable how President Medina has been able to convince large swaths of voters to give him a second term,” commented Jessica Reis, a vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner who directed the poll. “Many leaders in the region were handily re-elected during the commodities boom, but now presidents and ruling parties across the region are facing a crisis of confidence. Danilo is one of the few that has been able to weather and even flourish in hard times.”
Voters locking in; younger voters less sure
Most voters have already decided for whom they will vote next Sunday: 78 percent say they have already decided their vote, up 5 points from April. Voters on both sides are increasingly confident in their vote: 82 percent of Medina voters say they are certain of their vote (up 2 points from April), and 85 percent of Abinader voters feel certain (up fully 12 points).
A small share of voters (18 percent) says they are still deciding, and may change their vote. Younger voters are less certain of their vote: a full quarter of voters under 25 say they still may change their minds. These younger voters disproportionately support Medina.
High Expectations for Danilo
The driving dynamic in this race is that a growing majority of Dominicans feel better off. A 68 to 28 percent majority say their life is better than it was four year ago.
To compare, during the 2012 campaign – voters were split if life were better or worse than four years previous, at 47 to 45 percent, portending the much more competitive result in 2012’s presidential race.
This satisfaction is driven by social gains. In previous surveys, a huge majority – 89 percent – of Dominicans believes education is improving in the country; a majority also reports that health care is getting better. And a majority says these gains in social issues are the best reason to re-elect the president.
As result, Medina retains his strong approval rating: 79 percent approve of his job as president. And in the past few weeks of the campaign, he has cemented this personal appeal. The share that says he “cares about people like me” has grown throughout the campaign, up to 66 percent of all Dominicans. And now 70 percent say he is a “strong leader,” up 3 points from April and 10 points from February.
Yet even though most Dominicans feel better off compared to four years ago, there are still sharp concerns, notably around crime, employment, and corruption. In just the recent campaign period, crime has erupted as a concern – the share that lists it as a top worry has more than doubled since February. Voters are hungry for a solution, and a plurality names reducing crime as one of their top issues for Medina’s second term.
Crime is a hard metric to make progress on – yet Dominicans expect it. Sixty percent believe that Medina will achieve his promise to extend the country’s 911 service into San Cristobal, Hiana, and Santiago within the first year of his second term.
On economic issues, Dominicans are equally (if not more) optimistic. A 59 percent majority expects their household’s financial situation to improve in the next year.
And increasing employment is nearly as desired as fighting crime in terms of Medina’s priorities, with 40 percent saying it should be one of his top issues. Dominicans are excited about Medina’s proposal to create thousands of new jobs: 71 percent say this makes them more likely to support the president for re-election – and 68 percent believe he will achieve this in the first two years of his second term.
Across the board, Dominicans are expecting Medina to deliver on his campaign promises quickly. Beyond the majority that expects 911 to be expanded in the first year of the second term – a 52 percent majority expects he will increase the number of women who receive benefits from Blanca Solidaria (and a full quarter think he’ll do it in the first 6 months).
And within two years, a majority of Dominicans expect Medina to give computers to every student and teacher in public schools, to construct the new metrocable and finish the 2B line in Santo Domingo, and to extend health care to 90 percent of the public, including 100 percent of lower income families.
“Any world leader would be envious of Danilo’s numbers,” says Reis, who led the poll. “But for Danilo, there is also a downside: the curse of high expectations. Voters are expecting big things – especially on crime and jobs – and expecting them quickly. For Danilo, the test will be stretching voters’ patience to give him time to deliver.”
A Future for Abinader
Despite his likely loss to Medina this Sunday, and even though he will not come close to matching Hipólito Mejia’s 47 percent from 2012 against Medina, Luis Abinader has made real gains since 2015.
Abinader’s favorability has increased 14 points since early 2015, from 22 percent to 36 percent, and his name recognition has increased 11 points, from 85 percent to a near-universal 96 percent.
He has also led the new PRM. Only 19 percent of Dominicans had a favorable opinion of the PRM in 2015; now, 34 percent do. The party’s favorability has grown especially among older voters and voters in the capital. And by the end of the campaign, Abinader was able to capture 74 percent of Mejia’s former voters.
Throughout the course of the campaign period, Abinader was able to make some gains on important personal attributes. The share of Dominicans that believe him to be “honest and trustworthy” has grown, up 5 points since February, and the number that believes he is a “strong leader” has equally grown.
Partly, this is due to his focus on crime and corruption. As concerns about crime grew over the course of the campaign, Abinader’s focus on this was clear, namely by bringing in former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to advise his campaign, a move largely favored by voters. Abinader also focused on corruption, another top concern for voters and an issue that made headlines as former Medina advisor João Santana faced corruption charges in Brazil.
Beyond this focus, Abinader also offered some policy proposals that resonated with voters. Many of his proposals resulted in majorities feeling more likely to support him, especially his plan to make pre-school obligatory for children under 4 years old, and his program Mi Primer Empleo to incentivize the hiring of young people and women.
“Luis Abinader made some smart choices during the campaign,” said Liana Presser, who analyzed the poll from Washington. “His focus on crime and corruption – areas where President Medina is vulnerable – was sound. However, it just wasn't enough against such difficult conditions for a challenger. For Abinader it was just too little too late.”
Presentation and graphs are available by clicking here.