In choosing between incumbent Hugo Chavez and challenger Henrique Capriles in Sunday's presidential election, Venezuelans will weigh differing policies, sharply contrasting personal styles and a consideration that observers say may tip the balance among voters: the fear factor.

For Capriles to win, many voters who lean in his direction will have to overcome fear that they will lose their jobs or benefits in the event of a government change, that there will be an increase in political violence if Chavez loses, or that the government somehow will find out they voted for Capriles and take retribution.