Argentina polls show election race tightening; winner hard to call

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina election polls are showing an increasingly tight race between Peronist economy minister Sergio Massa and radical libertarian Javier Milei ahead of a runoff ballot on Nov. 19.

The two candidates offer polarized visions for the embattled Latin American country, the region’s third largest economy, a major supplier of grains, beef and lithium, which is also the largest debtor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A survey from local pollster Analogias on Monday showed Massa ahead with 42.4% of the likely vote against Milei on 39.7%, his lead more than cut in half versus the previous poll in late October. The new poll surveyed 2,324 people between Nov. 1-3 and claimed a margin of error of 2.4%.

Political polling has been wildly off in Argentina in recent years, including ahead of the first-round vote in October, when outsider Milei led in nearly all polls but ultimately came in second to Massa by nearly seven percentage points.

Since then, Massa has been seen as the candidate to beat, but Milei has gained ground, winning the backing of conservative Patricia Bullrich, who finished third in the first-round vote, and her powerful ally, former President Mauricio Macri.

“The difference in favor of Sergio Massa was reduced from 8 to 3 points compared to the first three days after the general election, when the impact of his win shook everything up,” Analogias said. Some 18% of respondents remained unsure.

Another poll, from Brazil-based Atlas Intel, meanwhile, showed Milei ahead of Massa with 48.5% to 44.7%, with some 7% of people responding “don’t know” or saying they would vote blank.

Atlas, one of the few to correctly predict a Massa win in the first-round vote, surveyed 3,218 voters online in the first three days of November and said it had a margin of error of 2%.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)