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‘Mamma P’ ahead by a whisker - Portia still more popular than the PNP

Published:Saturday | October 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Portia Simpson Miller

Her popularity has plunged from 78 per cent in the heady days of 2006, when she was elected president of the People's National Party (PNP), to a low of 36 per cent today, but Portia Simpson Miller continues to enjoy a higher favourability rating than the party she leads.

Portia emerged as the darling of the people after she won a bruising contest to replace P.J. Patterson as the president of the PNP.

At that time, a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll found 78 per cent of Jamaicans had a favourable impression of the veteran politician, who would be sworn in as the country's first female prime minister.

After leading the PNP to election defeat in 2007, Simpson Miller returned triumphant in 2011 to lead the party to a resounding victory.

But now, almost four years into the term, and leading a Government that has embarked on a painful, although necessary, fiscal adjustment with little economic growth and spiralling crime, Simpson Miller and the PNP are finding little favour with the electorate.

"I have never known the popularity of a party to be ahead of its leader. But it is true that when the leader rises, the party also rises. The critical point to be considered is that a drop in the leader's popularity can be so detrimental to cause the party to lose power," said political commentator Dr Paul Ashley.




He said Simpson Miller is facing the backlash of attempting to balance the country's books but lives are not being balanced.

Johnson, who has been doing polling since 1964, told The Sunday Gleaner that while there is a relationship between the popularity of the leader and the party, it is not necessarily a direct relationship.

"When people tell us they are voting PNP and you asked them why, they say they are doing so because they grew up in a family of Comrades and that orange ran through their veins. They don't say they are voting for PNP because of the leader. Only a small percentage would say they are voting PNP because of the leader."

Added Johnson: "What I have found is that the closer you get to election day, the more important the party becomes. This is because of greater visibility of the parties in public," said Johnson, who did his first poll locally in 1996.