Sat | May 27, 2017

Youth vote could surprise

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2015 | 8:00 AM


The pending election could yield an unexpected result because of changes in the underlying demographics. There are more 18- to 24-year-olds on the list than any time before.

The formation of political opinions for this demographic has nothing to do with Manley or Seaga, or of the history which followed them. Although most of their formative years would be under the People's National Party, they are not particularly enamoured with that party. They are not ideologically rooted; they simply want better. They want change.

Sadly, they are not convinced that our politicians can bring real change and opportunity. However, a trend is emerging. Consistently, the youth vote has favoured Andrew Holness, and the traditional support is split between himself and the prime minister. This gives Andrew an eight-point lead over Portia Simpson Miller.

By the last polls, it seems that the two parties have now maximised their traditional support base at 26 and 27 per cent. This suggests a 53 per cent voter turnout, which is just about the turnout in the last election. At this critical point, no party has sufficiently appealed to the disaffected voter, especially the youth voter.

Holness, naturally, has some support of the disaffected and uncommitted youth voter, but they don't like the party he leads and they don't like the PNP either. For good reason, they simply cannot identify with the Mike Henrys, the Bobby Pickersgills, the Karl Samudas and the Omar Davieses of this world.

It's just a plain fact of identity politics. The PNP, I believe, has recognised this and has started to project their bright young people: Lisa Hanna and Julian Robinson come across as stable; Pryce, Campbell and Crawford can't be taken seriously. The JLP seems slow out of the blocks with its new faces. Kamina Johnson-Smith is the political figure to watch. However, Malahoo-Forte and Juliet Cuthbert, who should be a formidable pair, have gone silent.

Holness must project the second tier of his party much more than he is doing now. That is the advantage he has over the PNP with the youth vote. He must present a credible team of next generation politicians who look competent and ready to take over. Recall in the last election, the JLP's youth team seemed not to be ready. In a tight race, as it is shaping up to be, the youth vote could be the surprise.