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CRUISE CONTROL! - JLP has 11 days to erase a four-percentage point deficit

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Portia Simpson Miller
Andrew Holness

Unless it does something terribly wrong between now and February 25, the governing People's National Party (PNP) seems set for a second term in office.

But with 11 days left before the polls, and knowing how easily Jamaicans fall out of love, it would be a foolish Comrade who would start the celebrations yet.

"Certainly, at this stage, it is going to be an orange sky on election night rather than a green sky," pollster Bill Johnson commented after his recent national poll found the PNP four percentage points ahead of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Orange is the colour of the PNP, which was voted into power in December 2011 after the JLP, which wears green, became Jamaica's first one-term administration.

Johnson's poll of 1,200 voters across all 63 constituencies carries a plus or minus three per cent sampling error and found that PNP President Portia Simpson Miller is more popular than JLP leader Andrew Holness.

"The movement definitely appears to be an orange movement and not a green movement," said Johnson yesterday.

"Everything seems to be pointing in the direction of a strong PNP victory," he added.

Compared to September 2014 when 12 per cent of Jamaicans said they would definitely vote for the PNP, Johnson now finds 28 per cent saying they will definitely vote for the party in the upcoming election. This movement reflects a six percentage point increase from September 2015.



There is a similar six percentage point positive movement for the JLP as it relates to persons who would definitely cast ballot for the Holness-led party.

Johnson, noting that 67 per cent of persons who rate Simpson Miller favourably will be voting for the PNP, while only 59 per cent who rate Holness favourably will be voting for the JLP, said, "There is an intensity of support for the PNP that is building. It is hard to see any green sprout growing for the JLP from this data."

Asked what could cause the momentum to slip from the PNP, Johnson said, "It is hard to see anything."

He said that the PNP lost ground last year because of the so-called 'dead babies scandal', an episode which saw 19 babies dying in two public hospitals after being infected with bacteria.

"If something similar - God forbid - were to happen and it could be blamed on the PNP, that could certainly have a very negative effect on the party," said Johnson.

The poll showed that 31 per cent of the people plan to vote for the PNP because of family tradition, 24 per cent believe Simpson Miller's party is doing a good job, and 17 per cent feel the PNP is better than the JLP.

Of those who will be voting for the JLP, which Johnson said is "fighting against the wind", 20 per cent said there is a need for a change, 18 per cent said the JLP is better than the PNP, and 17 per cent are 'rockstone Labourites'.

But despite the PNP extending the lead on the JLP - from 27-26 last year September to 33-29 this year, a vast chunk of the population will not vote (24 per cent) or are undecided (13 per cent).

However, the category of persons who said they would not vote has dropped 17 percentage points from two years ago, and six percentage points since last September.

Similarly, the portion of Jamaicans who said they are undecided has dropped three percentage points since the last poll.

Johnson found that 28 per cent of those who will not vote or are undecided would consider voting for the PNP if they get jobs, if they are paid to vote or if their roads are fixed.

But whereas 28 per cent of the undecided would consider voting for the PNP if the conditions are met, only 21 per cent are prepared to cast ballots for the JLP, and they want jobs, money for vote and better roads in exchange for the 'X' beside the bell.

Johnson suggested that in order to get back into the race, the JLP may need to change strategy and has opined that griping about the PNP opting out of the national leadership debates is unlikely to lead to an improved position.

"It seems that the JLP is wasting its time talking about debates rather than the issues. I don't believe the average person cares one way or another about debates. The JLP is just off on detour, talking about and wasting resources on a non-issue," Johnson said.

Friday night, a confident Simpson Miller told Comrades in Harbour View, St Andrew, that she would not be wasting time talking about the national debates.

"Some people getting worked up and upset about debate, I am going around the country and talking directly to the Jamaican people. I am sharing our record with the people who put us in office.

"I am accounting for my stewardship to them. The people are the ones that count," Simpson Miller said.

She has charged PNP workers, including young people, to take the party's message far and wide to all Jamaicans, encouraging them to stay with the party for a second term.




"Walk the streets, walk the lanes, walk every community and tell the people what the People's National Party has done. Tell them about the many new schools that the PNP has built and upgraded.

"Tell them about improved performance of our children at primary and high schools. Remind them about the school-feeding programme, remind them of the 300,000 children who are now provided with breakfast and lunch, free of cost," she told party supporters.

"More and more people are saying that the economic policies of the People's National Party Government are the right policies for Jamaica," she added.

Holness has countered by pointing to the many Jamaicans who he said have seen their standard of living deteriorate over the past four years.

Preaching a message of poverty to prosperity, the JLP has charged that the Simpson Miller administration has bungled the affairs of the State while passing IMF tests and failing the people's test.

Holness has released a 10-point plan, which he argues will set Jamaica on the way to real development.

The JLP has also argued that the PNP is shying away from the political debates because it is unable to face the people and defend its stewardship.