Argentina’s Milei Has Narrow Lead Over Massa Ahead of Runoff

(Bloomberg) -- Libertarian outsider Javier Milei holds an edge over Economy Minister Sergio Massa in Argentina’s Nov. 19 presidential runoff, according to a polling firm whose first-round prediction was among the most accurate.

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Brazil-based AtlasIntel, in a survey released Friday, puts Milei’s support at 48.5% compared to 44.7% for Massa, the candidate for the incumbent Peronist government who came in first on Oct. 22. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

“Milei is ahead outside of the margin of error and not within a statistical tie with Sergio Massa,” Atlas Chief Executive Officer Andrei Roman said by email. “It is worth noting, however, that the difference between Milei and Massa is lower than one might have expected based on structural factors, such as the poor approval rate of the government and the sum of votes of the right and center-right candidates in the first round.”

Massa is overseeing an economy lurching into its sixth recession in a decade, with annual inflation running above 138%. Milei, meanwhile, promises to slash state spending, dollarize the economy and shut down Argentina’s central bank. High prices and inflation were considered the top issue for 78% of those surveyed by Atlas.

The outsider and the incumbent are battling to win over more than a third of the electorate that didn’t vote or backed the pro-business opposition bloc. Its leader, Patricia Bullrich, captured 24% of the vote last month and is now supporting Milei.

Before the October vote, most pollsters predicted Milei, the frontrunner, would increase his lead. Massa, however, vaulted ahead and won 37% of the vote while the upstart libertarian’s support stagnated at 30%.

Atlas was one of the few to call the first round right. In an Oct. 13 survey, the firm’s data suggested Massa would pull ahead with about 31% while Milei’s support would shrink to 25%.

The latest poll was conducted online with 3,218 participants, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Discounting blank votes, annulled votes and undecideds, Milei’s lead over Massa in the survey is 52% to 48%.

Whoever wins the most votes in the runoff will become Argentina’s next president, with a new government taking office on Dec. 10.

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