Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Few think Government performing well, poll finds

Published:Friday | October 16, 2015 | 10:00 AMGary Spaulding

With high unemployment, a lethal crime wave and a sickly public-health system overshadowing the Government's efforts to rescue the economy, more than half of Jamaicans have given the Portia Simpson Miller administration a failing grade.

The latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has found that 53 per cent of Jamaicans have given the Government poor marks, with 34 per cent describing the performance as "very bad", and 19 as "bad".

Only 22 per cent believe that the Government is doing a good job, with 18 per cent describing it as "good", and a mere four per cent saying "very good".

Another 21 per cent were non-committal, saying neither good nor bad, while four per cent said they did not know.

This compares mildly favourably with the poll findings of September 2014, when only 16 per cent thought that the Government was performing well.

It was, however, less favourable than December 2011, when 35 per cent of individuals interviewed gave the then administration a passing grade.

The poll was conducted islandwide from September 25-27 with 1,200 residents and a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

For political scientist Dr Hume Johnson, who sought to interpret the sentiments of Jamaicans at this time, political parties are largely observed and judged through the prisms of the citizens' own standards of living.

Johnson said Jamaicans, therefore, perceive and judge the performance of the Government based on the material circumstances of their own life and the condition of the communities in which they live.

"Their ability to access social goods such as water, electricity, food, rent, and whether they are able to afford the cost of those things, vis-‡-vis their living wages, communicates a lot about their Government, and underscores their feelings about it," said Johnson.

She added: "Significantly, that their own representatives appear to live more affluent lives - in fancy homes, in fancy neighbourhoods and drive fancy cars - may also articulate to citizens that the [political] party is self-seeking, self-interested, benefiting only those within its core leadership, and less so for the public that its elected to serve."

Johnson suggested that this perception is justified because:

- The programmes unveiled to benefit the people seem to be inconsistently applied, benefiting only a minority of people and distributed in an uneven fashion;

- These initiatives appear to come in spurts, only at moments, such as the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme, rather than part of a coherent national policy to effect social change.

- The People's National Party (PNP) has consistently failed to touch base with citizens, engaging them in participatory governance, getting their feedback in a way that shows that it is genuinely representing the people's interests.

"This incredible disconnect between the party and the citizens of Jamaica renders the PNP at odds too often with the sentiments of the people it leads," said Johnson.

She charged that the party doesn't take criticism well, no matter how well-intentioned, and this level of smugness has caused its favourability to plummet in the eyes of the vast majority of citizens.

In order to restore legitimacy, Johnson said it is important for the PNP to shift its approach to governance, the philosophy informing policy and how they are effected, and, importantly, its relationship with civil society, particularly the requirement for participation, information sharing and communication," added Johnson.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com