Bruce, Portia slide
THE POLITICAL stocks of Prime Minister Bruce Golding tumbled heavily as the nation awaited the outcome of a protracted extradition dispute with the United States, a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has revealed.
At the same time, Portia Simpson Miller, the opposition leader, suffered a minor political shock with a seven percentage fall-off in favourability.
Approval ratings for Golding plunged by 20 points in April and early May, cascading from a high of 47 per cent in August 2009.
According to the latest survey, 56 per cent of Jamaicans disapprove of Golding's performance as prime minister, an increase of 18 percentage points over last year. Another 17 per cent were non-committal.
The prime minister's unequivocal statement in Parliament indicating that he was willing to pay a political price to "uphold a position that constitutional rights do not begin at Liguanea" - headquarters of the United States Embassy - in relation to the extradition request for Tivoli Gardens alleged drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, returned to haunt him in the results of the poll.
The islandwide Gleaner-Bill Johnson survey, conducted on April 24 and 25, as well as May 1, with a sample size of 1,008 and a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, showed a huge 21 percentage-point decline in the number of Jamaicans who had a favourable opinion of Golding when compared with his 46 per cent standings last year. The poll also revealed a 16 per cent spike in those who had an unfavourable view of him, pushing the number to 54 per cent.
And the fallout in Golding's standings, which occurred weeks before the Tivoli Gardens incursion by the security forces to serve a warrant on Coke, has seemingly not benefited the leadership of the People's National Party.
Apart from her favourable ratings, the percentage of Jamaicans who approve or disapprove of the job that Simpson Miller is doing as opposition leader remains flat.
Political analyst Claude Robinson is not surprised at the results of the poll, given public reaction to how the Government had handled the extradition request for Coke, who has been on the run since the security forces stormed his west Kingston enclave on May 24.
Pointing to the prime minister's role in the Manatt affair, Robinson asserted that this would have affected his credibility.
"I am not surprised that his favourable rating would have dropped so significantly and his unfavourable rating would have risen sharply. The about-face on his own role and knowledge of the affair really damaged him," he added.
Despite both positive and negative elements of the Jamaica Debt Exchange programme and the International Monetary Fund agreement, the political analyst reasoned that the initiatives offered a possibility to stabilise the economy.
"Whatever pluses would have accrued to the prime minister for those initiatives would have been more than wiped out by the losses on the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and the Dudus affairs," he opined.
Robinson said other factors that might have worked against Golding included the imposition of taxes just before the IMF agreement and the intense wage disputes between the Government and public-sector workers.
Kevin O'Brien Chang, political analyst, said the poll reflected the sentiments of Jamaicans at the time.
However, he argued that times had changed dramatically in the last month. According to Chang, although the public might not have forgiven Golding totally, his ratings might have crept up a bit.
"My view (is) if he continues the state of emergency, as is, because we have seen a significant fall in crime over the past three weeks ... if he continues the tough policies we are seeing ... and cracking down on where the known guns and gangsters are, I think his ratings will be going up."
If that resolve weakens, his ratings might plummet or even decline further.
"His fate is in his own hands."
Robinson said Simpson Miller's inability to record a rating surge indicated she had lots of work to do to project herself as an alternative prime minister.
"I don't think that the failures of the Government alone would get her back in office," he said, adding that she had to be a more assertive problem-solver.