KINGSTON –– The February 25 general election will come down to 14 marginal seats, which a new poll conducted by Trinidadian-based political scientist Derek Ramsamooj shows is leaning towards the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
According to Ramsamooj, the privately commissioned poll conducted between Nomination Day (February 9) and the past weekend, before the JLP and the governing People’s National Party (PNP) hosted major rallies in Half-Way Tree and Montego Bay, respectively, found that 51.76 per cent of electors in these marginal seats would vote for the JLP and 48.24 per cent for the PNP.
“The political momentum at this point is leaning favourably towards the JLP forming the next government. However, the winning of an election is based on the resources — financial and human — and the [effectiveness] of the election machinery [on Election Day],” said Ramsamooj.
He warned, however, that any “unforeseen error” by either of the political parties in the next 48 hours will be a political disaster. Ramsamooj said he and his team interviewed 1,859 people for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.
“It has a 95 per cent confidence level,” Ramsamooj told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
He said that when Jamaicans were asked who would make a better prime minister, 53.47 per cent said JLP leader Andrew Holness and 46.53 per cent Portia Simpson Miller, the president of the PNP and current prime minister.
At the same time, when asked if Prime Minister Simpson Miller deserves another term, 52.02 per cent said “no” and 41.41 per cent said “yes”.
Some 6.51 per cent, he said, responded that they did not know. Asked what factors would influence them to vote, 74.44 per cent of respondents said leadership; 71.37 per cent the competence of candidates; 69.74 per cent national issues; and 61.30 per cent loyalty to party.
“No polling was done in the hardcore PNP and JLP constituencies,” Ramsamooj said, making it clear that it was not a national poll.
According to Ramsamooj, when asked what they expected in 2016/2017 if the PNP remained in office, 66.91 per cent of respondents in the marginal seats said rising unemployment; 77.70 per cent rising taxes; and 69.32 per cent an increase in crime.
At the same time, when asked what are the most urgent issues that need to be tackled now, 85.65 per cent said unemployment was the most important; 77.23 per cent identified poverty as the second most important; 71.79 per cent said problems facing the youth; 75.89 per cent education issues; and 73.58 per cent said cost of living.
At the same time, Ramsamooj said when respondents were asked what was the most urgent political problem that needed to be addressed in Jamaica, 72.28 per cent said constitutional reform; 70.24 per cent better governance and dealing with public financing; 69.86 per cent dishonesty in politics; and 68.29 per cent corruption in the political system.
According to the Ramsamooj poll, 62.03 per cent of respondents said “yes” when asked: “Do you think the government was able to pass the IMF tests at the expense of the citizens of Jamaica?”
Another 21.14 per cent said “no”, and 12.84 per cent said they did not know. Respondents were also asked if they agreed or disagreed with the slogans of the parties — the PNP’s Step Up The Progress and the JLP’s From Poverty To Prosperity.
Some 53.47 per cent agreed with the PNP’s slogan, against 46.53 per cent who disagreed. On the other hand, 62.27 per cent were in agreement with the JLP’s slogan, and 37.73 per cent in disagreement.
The JLP, meanwhile, had 80.70 per cent of respondents endorsing its growth agenda as part of its job creation plan; 77.71 per cent endorsed its planned creation of a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation; and 75.64 per cent backed its National Apprenticeship Programme.
“Both the PNP and the JLP have been able to motivate and mobilize core supporters, and both have demonstrated that they have been able to bring out their support base as a method of testing and reviewing their election day machinery,” Ramsamooj told the Observer yesterday.
However, he said that what was critical was the political appeal of both platforms in attracting the undecided voters. He said it was evident that the electorate was looking for leadership that would meet the IMF conditionalities, while improving their lives.
“The political rhetoric and political optics displayed, while resonating with party supporters, have a different interpretation with the undecided, first-time voters, the business community, and swing voters,” he said.
Voters, he added, would also be concerned about the benefits under a new administration over the next five years.
Political interest, he said, has been heightened since the parties launched their manifestos last week, but noted that the public conversation is more about the JLP’s ten-point plan.
The PNP, he said, had been responding through a single voice (Dr Peter Phillips), which has raised the question of who will be the next leader of the party.
“Maybe there is a not-so-visible political hand at work that may see Dr Phillips emerging as the leader of the PNP in the next five years,” he observed.
He said that in the few days leading up to Thursday’s election, it would be hand-to-hand combat in the marginal constituencies, while pointing out that the various incentives being offered to motivate certain voters — the strength of various candidates and strategies on election day to get out the voters — would be crucial.
“One would expect a strategic allocation of campaign resources in the marginal constituencies,” he said.
Ramsamooj, who commended the Jamaican electorate for their level of maturity, said the choices made by citizens will be critical to choices of leadership and policies that should guide Jamaica through the turbulent global waters.
He said, too, that political trust and competitiveness and connectivity to the electorate at the constituency level will also influence voters.
Ramsamooj has, over the years, done political polling in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Suriname, Belize, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguila, and St Kitts and Nevis.