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The electorate in Trinidad and Tobago continues to be polarized by race as the country gears for a general election no later than September this year, according to an opinion poll published here on Monday.
The poll, published in the Trinidad Express newspaper and conducted by Solution by Simulation Limited (SBS), said if a general election were held now, the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) would receive 31 per cent of the votes as against 26 per cent for the coalition People’s Partnership administration.
But the pollsters found that the electorate continues to be polarised by race with very few voters of African descent supporting the Indo-dominated coalition People’s Partnership and few voters of East Indian descent supporting the African-based PNM, although large segments of these groups indicate that they are undecided.
The poll found that the undecided voters are as high as 33 per cent.
The poll conducted between March 23-25 with a margin of error of minus or plus four per cent, noted that the PNM continues to hold a lead among voters of mixed descent although 45 per cent of this group is undecided.
“The battle for the 2015 election may largely centre around a competition to turn out voters at higher rates, the favourability ratings of the party leaders, and the segment of the population who continue to reject both major parties,” the pollsters found.
“This poll continues to confirm that the biggest drivers of political preference are ethnicity and the popularity of the party leaders. Notwithstanding the Partnership’s slight drop in popularity (in favour of undecided) the Prime Minister’s favourability rating remains very high at 50 per cent, and the Leader of Opposition’s favourability is a modest 40 per cent.”
Trinidad and Tobago has a population of 1.3 million comprises with Indo Trinidadians comprising 37.6 per cent of the population while the Afro-Trinidadians comprise 36.3 per cent.
Reacting to the outcome of the poll, deputy leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Dr. Roodal Moonilal, said he remained confident that the present government would be returned to power.
The UNC is the biggest partner in the coalition and Moonilal told the Trinidad Express newspaper “I take all polls seriously and the findings of this poll as with others would strengthen us to work harder to deliver goods and services to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and uplift the quality of life for all.
“I’ve also taken note that what the poll found was that the PNM was unable to move, they are locked within their own column and they cannot move further because the poll suggests that the undecided is still there to be convinced and the PNM has not been able to convince the undecided to support them so their figure has not moved,” he said, noting that the coalition has yet to put its election campaign into “high gear”.
But PNM vice-chairman Colm Imbert has dismissed the poll findings as “unscientific,” noting that Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar enjoys a higher favourability rating than Opposition leader Dr. Keith Rowley.
“It is scientifically impossible to have a party or a coalition polling at 26 per cent and the leader who is the persona of that coalition polling 50 per cent, that’s absurd, it’s unscientific, it’s nonsensical,” said Imbert.
Imbert said in the United States, telephone surveys have been discredited and the general view of telephone polls is that they do not give an accurate picture.
“If a stranger calls you on a telephone out of the blue and tells you they are doing a political survey, the instinctive reaction most people would say they don’t want to answer at all and those who participate would be worried at exactly who is at the other end of the telephone line. Is it really a professional pollster or is some political party pretending to be a polling organisation so they not going to get a accurate response,” said Imbert.
Leader of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), Jack Warner, said the poll confirmed his earlier position that the undecided voters would determine the election of the 2015 general election.
The ILP polled four per cent, but Warner said the figure was 100 per cent higher than the previous poll. He said the ILP is yet to launch its campaign.
“What is significant is that the ILP has doubled its percentage without even having a single meeting and announcement of our candidates, without even having all that Government PR propaganda and we are aiming at the undecided because we believe that is where the elections shall begin and at the end of the day I am more optimistic now that ever before,” said Warner.
“We shall go into campaign full gear when the Prime Minister has announced a date, we are not going to be misled by them into spending our limited resources without a date being called,” he added.
Warner said that the poll found that people were unhappy with the governance of the country.
“The people have a right to be unhappy for a Government that has spent TT$300 billion (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) in four years and the government goes on an election campaign and not once have the accounted for their stewardship,” he added.