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Who cares? - Many Jamaicans believe it doesn't make much difference whether the JLP or the PNP governs the country at this time

Published:Friday | October 23, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

A growing sense of political apathy among Jamaicans has loomed large in the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll.

Johnson has found that a sizeable portion of the populace - just under half - remains unconvinced that it makes much difference which of the two major political parties governs Jamaica at this juncture.

The poll, which was carried out between September 25 and 27, found that 48 per cent of Jamaicans were not persuaded that either of the parties makes a difference, one percentage point less than the 49 per cent who feel differently.

The findings, which carry a sampling error of +3.5% or -3.5%, highlighted the heavy reliance on the support base of the two parties as well as high levels of disaffection.

Only three per cent of those polled did not have a position on whether any of the two major political parties would make a difference in governance.

Of the 49 per cent who did not find favour with the view that it wouldn't make a difference, 37 per cent disagreed and 12 per cent strongly disagreed.

Of the 48 per cent who believed it wouldn't make a difference, 26 per cent strongly agreed and 22 per cent agreed.

Johnson told The Gleaner that more than two-thirds - 68 per cent - of undecided voters are not convinced that either of the two major parties would make a difference.

"The bulk of undecided voters are unlikely to venture out to vote as they see it as a lost cause," he said.

Only 53 per cent of the electorate turned out on December 29, 2011.

 

OLDER PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO VOTE

 

"When I examined the breakdown, it is clear that older people are the ones who are likely to vote," said Johnson.

He disclosed that 53 per cent of persons between the ages of 18 and 24 agreed that it did not make much difference, while 54 per cent of persons between 25 and 34 concurred.

He said that 44 per cent of persons between the ages of 45 and 54 years do not think that electing either of the two parties would make much difference at this time. This view was also held by 38 per cent of persons between 55 and 64.

Then there are 33 per cent in the 65 and beyond category having little or no faith in political change.

Of significance, pollster Johnson said, was that 35 per cent of People's National Party (PNP) supporters do not think either of the two parties would make a difference, compared to 29 per cent of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters.

Johnson said this suggests that more PNP supporters are losing faith in their party to make a difference.

Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw has promised to continue with the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) austere economic programme being pursued by the current administration.

The country continues to be challenged by high unemployment and crime levels, which is not helped by a creaky public-health system.

 

IMF FACTOR

 

For political observer Reverton Bailey, an often-overlooked reason for the PNP eyeing an early poll is the IMF factor.

"This factor also contributes to what appears to be voter apathy," said Bailey.

He suggested that the IMF programme will remain despite the winner.

"So why bother? I may hate the pro-gramme, but it doesn't change the outcome."

According to Bailey, there is no galvanising factor in the election.

"The early election is a clever strategy for the PNP for that reason."

He suggested that if the Portia Simpson Miller-lead PNP awaits the end of the programme, the advantage would go to the Andrew Holness-led JLP, which would then be in a position to offer alternatives.

He said there is nothing about the leadership of both parties that would excite potential voters.

"On the PNP side, Portia has been neutered by the IMF programme," he said. "Andrew is also impacted because he cannot promise what he can't deliver as per the IMF."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com