Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Advantage PNP - Two UWI research teams project another Portia victory

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 2:00 AMArthur Hall
A section of the large crowd which gathered in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew to hear PNP president, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, announce February 25 as the date for the next general election.
PNP President Portia Simpson Miller seems poised to lead her party to another election victory, according to two UWI research teams.
JLP Leader Andrew Holness, could find himself remaining on the opposition benches after February 25, if the projections of two UWI research teams hold.
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With 18 days left before Jamaicans go to the polls, two research teams from the University of the West Indies, using different methods, have projected that the People's National Party (PNP) will be back in power when the votes are counted.

Using the CHAMPSKNOW system of forecasting, lecturer in political psychology Dr Christopher Charles, and Gleasia Reid, an MPhil/PhD student in political science, projected that the PNP has a 60 per cent chance of winning the election and will capture 40 seats while the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will come out with 23 seats.

In the meantime, social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle and his team, using integrated methodology, with the assistance of qualitative and historical material, have given the PNP 36 seats, the JLP 18, with the remaining nine seats still up for grabs.

According to Charles, his team used political forecasting, which is not the same as political polling.

"Polling is just one of the things that will inform forecasting. But it's important to know that whereas polling captures happenings at a particular moment in time, forecasting is different. Forecasting may or may not use polling.

"Political forecasting is predicting political outcomes. So you can predict if there is going to be violence; if a public policy is going to be successful; if an election is going to be called in a certain period, and the outcome of an election," added Charles.

Charles said having started by giving the parties an equal chance of winning the general election, the forecast last November gave the PNP a 55 per cent chance of winning. But changes on the political stage since then have seen that projection increased.

"Voter turnout is decreasing and is likely to be near 50 per cent so the diehards will determine the election," argued Charles.

He said while his team has forecast that the PNP will lose two of the 42 seats it now holds, they are not yet ready to name those seats as campaigning over the next weeks could lead to change.

"We will be releasing our final forecast on February 21, and at that time we will be presenting the projections on how each constituency will go," said Charles.

But even while he is not prepared to say which seats the PNP seems poised to lose, Charles said the researchers expect the PNP to win nine garrison constituencies, 25 seats which it traditionally holds, and six marginal constituencies.

For the JLP, the researchers expect it to hold four garrison constituencies, 11 seats that it usually wins, and eight marginal seats.

In the meantime, Gayle said his team's study cannot be treated as a poll; it used two geopolitical variables, 'parish' and 'constituency', and can provide rough insights into the direction of voting or assist with a seat count.

"The research team was trained to cover all the polling divisions in each constituency, paying attention to proportion, to allow for some degree of accuracy. Nonetheless, the study was not designed in a way to provide precise data such as X will win by X% - and this was not the main objective of the study," said Gayle.

He noted that data for the study was collected over a seven-week period between November 2015 and January 2016, with just over half of the persons on the voters' list saying they intend to vote.

According to Gayle, his study found that the PNP is likely to get 33 per cent of the popular votes compared to the JLP's 27 per cent - putting the PNP six percentage points ahead of its opponent.

"The data ... show that the PNP is likely to have 12 clear wins ... a clear advantage in 14 constituencies, and can arrest another 10 in which they have a mild advantage.

"The tally of these (36 seats) suggests that the PNP is almost guaranteed a win in the upcoming election - barring a major social shift.

"Without the unclear seats, the JLP is expected to amass only 18 seats. They are therefore expected to drive a hard campaign in order to give themselves a chance. The stringent sampling did not allow us to predict the remaining nine seats," said Gayle.

But the university lecturer noted that candidates and parties can increase their chances at the polls by campaigning to disgruntled youths, especially males.

The two parties have engaged in extensive campaigning in the past week, pulling massive crowds to major meetings across the island.

Under the rallying cry "Step up The Progress", the PNP has expressed confidence that it will be elected to form the government when the votes are counted. The JLP, which has vowed to lead Jamaica from "Poverty to Prosperity", has also expressed confidence that voters will elect it to form the government.