POLL RESULTS: FALLING SHORT
Significant number of J’cans believe Gov’t, Opposition underperforming
An overwhelming number of Jamaicans believe that both the Government and Opposition are underperforming in their respective capacities, the latest Don Anderson opinion poll have revealed. The Holness administration has seen a 14.3-percentage point...
An overwhelming number of Jamaicans believe that both the Government and Opposition are underperforming in their respective capacities, the latest Don Anderson opinion poll have revealed.
The Holness administration has seen a 14.3-percentage point increase in the number of Jamaicans viewing its performance negatively (poor and very poor), moving from 30 per cent in July 2022 to 44.3 per cent seven months later.
The latter figure is a 7.4 percentage point difference from the Mark Golding-led Opposition, with 51.7 per cent of the 1,002 eligible voters polled indicating that the Opposition is performing poorly.
This means that the Opposition’s negative performance rating has increased by 5.7 percentage points since July 2022, when the RJRGLEANER Communications Group commissioned a similar opinion poll.
Thirty-three per cent of those surveyed last month felt that the Government’s performance has been average, a four-percentage point decline from 2022, while 33.9 per cent also rated the Opposition as poor.
The Government lost ground in its positive performance rating with 22.7 per cent, indicating that it has been very good or good. Compared to July, its rating declined by 10.3 percentage points.
Meanwhile, the Opposition saw a fall-off of 1.6 percentage points as its positive performance rating moved from 16 per cent to 14.4 per cent.
The findings are the result of a People’s National Party (PNP)-commissioned poll conducted by Anderson and his team at Market Research Surveys Limited between February 17 and 26 across the island.
The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.
“Twenty-three per cent of the persons interviewed gave the Andrew Holness-led Government a positive rating. This has to be examined against the 44 per cent who gave it a negative rating, with 16 per cent rating the performance as poor and even more, 28 per cent considering the performance of the Government to be very poor,” said Anderson.
He noted that the figures calculate to a net negative rating of some 21 percentage points.
In noting that the Opposition’s performance rating was lower than the Government’s, the pollster said its 14.4 per cent positive performance rating when compared to 52 per cent of respondents who felt its performance was either poor or very poor translates to a net negative of 38 per cent.
“Overall, the performance of the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) [Government] is regarded as better than that for the [Opposition] PNP, but both slip in the eyes of the voting public,” Anderson said.
Dr Dayton Campbell, general secretary of the PNP, told The Gleaner on Sunday that the findings are reflective of a party that is rebuilding after a “devastating” general election defeat in September 2020, when the JLP trounced the PNP 49-14.
He said the results of this poll, which is one of several commissioned by the party in recent months, indicate that there are “some clear opportunities, threats, weaknesses, and strengths” for the Opposition.
“We now must note the weaknesses and put a plan in place to improve on those, note the strengths and to put something in place so we can continue to expand on those and to safeguard against the threats and to capitalise on whatever opportunity is there,” said Campbell.
Further, he said that the overall picture signals a positive poll for the party.
“I remain optimistic that we are at the end of the beginning. By no means am I of the opinion that we are where we want to be, but I think looking at the overall poll, I believe that we have enough to work with to secure victory,” he said.
Campbell said it is difficult to judge a party in opposition, but he believes that the Golding-led team has been holding the Government accountable and putting forward alternatives without compromising the release of its manifesto.
He pointed to Golding’s continuous tabling of relevant bills to engineer solutions or correct Government error.
At the same time, he said the findings point to a “monumental fall and downward spiral” in the Government’s stewardship of the country.
“There are concerns for the Government. If I were the general secretary of the governing party, I’d be very nervous. You have quite a lot of sectors in the society being upset with the Government and it’s almost concurrently,” he said, while singling out teachers, the police, and taxi operators.
The first two groups are yet to sign on to the Government’s compensation review system.
But chairman of the JLP’s public relations arm, Robert Morgan, told The Gleaner that the findings are not surprising because the Government is midway its term in office.
He said that the coronavirus pandemic; challenges with global inflation, which has driven up consumer prices; and challenges within the Government itself, including the Road Traffic Act foul-up, may have impacted the results.
“The fact that a majority of Jamaicans still have confidence in the Government is something that we need to look on as a Government and we need to continue working on to improve our position. We continue to be very motivated and very interested in doing what’s good for Jamaica,” Morgan said on Sunday, while pointing to several infrastructure projects, including the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project and the construction of a children’s hospital in the western end of the island.
The information minister also pointed to the “over 20 per cent” reduction in murders.
“So, there’s a lot of good that the Government is doing. I believe that as we continue to demonstrate to the people that we are a better Government that people will, at the end of the day, retain confidence as the polls are showing that a majority of persons either view our work as average or very good – over 50 per cent” Morgan said.
He added that if the Government improves its communications and connects on a closer level with the people on the ground, then its fortunes will increase.
“We will be okay,” he said.
Morgan said that it is clear that the Opposition has not been able to capitalise on the challenges that the Government has faced over the past 12 months.
A lot of that, Morgan reasoned, has to do with the wisdom of Jamaicans.
“Jamaicans are very smart, analytical and understand who has their best interest at heart,” he said, noting that polls continue to show the confidence Jamaicans have in Holness’ leadership.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
But senior lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Maziki Thame, has concluded that the Government’s very poor and poor rating of 44 per cent equates with the negative rating of Holness.
Thame said this means that people are equally dissatisfied with the Government’s performance as they are with Holness’.
“We can associate this assessment with the [Government’s] inability to improve conditions for the majority, whether to improve quality of life or to stem the rates of crime and violence. Beyond these tangibles, we might also point to a lack of hope in the nation,” she asserted.
Conversely, Thame said that the poor and very poor rating of the Opposition under Golding is almost three percentage points higher than his individual rating.
“It could mean nothing, considering the three per cent margin of error in polling,” she noted nonetheless.
The political analyst said because the Opposition is on the outside looking in, it is important to look at what people perceive its role to be, assess the broader political climate and the Opposition’s place in it.
“We should be concerned with high levels of apathy, the fact that people are actively encouraged to be apolitical and that the political system may be facing a crisis of legitimacy.
“In normally functioning democracies, we would be encouraging more politics, not less. Issues of public concern must be treated as political issues. The poll, therefore, suggests that the [Opposition] has to do the work of raising the legitimacy of the politics. It must provide a credible alternative to the state of public affairs and to avoid being victims of depoliticisation. Its work involves raising the level of political consciousness in the nation,” said Thame.
Dr Jermaine McCalpin, director of the African and African-American studies programme at New Jersey City University, noted that the lager implication from the findings suggest that there is a growing number of people disconnected from the political process.
“That one-third has no opinion of whether positive or negative is significant,” said McCalpin.
He said that Government will be at a perceived disadvantage to the extent that it has had stewardship for seven years with issues of the economy, wage, crime and violence, the delay for the holding of local government elections, and bungling with the Road Traffic Act roll-out, among other things, dogging its tenure.
He noted that almost half of those polled on the Government’s performance said that it was poor or very poor.
Equally troubling, he said, is that more than 50 per cent believe that the Opposition is performing poor over very poor.
“However, I would not do the ‘Chicken Little’ thing to say the sky is falling, but I would say that we are having a leadership challenge and it says that people are expecting more of their political leadership and stewardship.
“I think the electorate and the Jamaican populace is now growing disaffected with the politics of the past, where simply because you were the leader of the party, then people thought well or highly of you. It’s now a performance-based situation.
“So both leaders may need to have some performance anxiety and see how they are going to correct it. There is nothing here that points to the idea that either of them can rest,” the political scientist said.