|JLP still trailing PNP as parties lose ground
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Edward Seaga's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lost ground in September to trail the governing People's National Party (PNP) by more than five percentage points, or more than the survey's margin of error, thereby giving the PNP a clear lead in voter support for the October 16 general elections.
The PNP support was, according to the survey, 37 per cent, or a statistically insignificant eight-tenth of a percentage point below its August position. The JLP's support was 31.7 per cent, down from 34.4 per cent.
But this mid-September poll, showing a nearly three percentage point drop in JLP support from a month earlier, was before last week's dramatic about-face by Bruce Golding, who formally announced that he was abandoning the National Democratic Movement (NDM) to return to the JLP.
Golding's decision was announced less than 48 hours after he emphatically insisted in a television interview that he had no plans to return to the party from which he walked away seven years before to form the NDM.
But while his decision has raised questions about his integrity, any policy concession by the JLP to facilitate Golding's return would have been driven by concerns about the likelihood of the poll numbers that have now emerged and a view that his presence would boost the JLP's flagging campaign.
While the latest poll, done for the Observer by the Stone Organisation, indicated some slippage in support for the major parties, in the case of the JLP, the 2.7 percentage point drop was worryingly close to the poll's margin of error, suggesting that the Opposition faces more than a statistical worry - a real decline in support. The 5.3 percentage point difference between the parties would translate into a near 16 per cent advantage for the PNP among voters.
Of the two minor parties, the National Democratic Movement/New Jamaica Alliance was steady with 0.2 per cent support, the same as it was in August, while the United People's Party was down by nearly a point to 1.2 per cent.
In the August survey, people who would not say how they would vote had been eliminated as a category, but in September, they had returned, accounting for 2.2 per cent of the voters, near to the 2.9 per cent of July.
The undecided voters declined marginally in September to 14.9 per cent, compared to the 15.6 per cent at which it had held in the previous two polls, while those who say they will not vote hardened slightly. This group, in September, represented 12.8 per cent of the electorate, up from 10 per cent in August. It was 25 per cent in July.
Stone maintained their projection that 75 per cent of the people who have a vote will cast their ballots, and 93 per cent of them have already made up their minds.
With the majority saying they intend to vote for the PNP, Stone said that the JLP will now have to convince "a significant percentage of the PNP support" to switch in order to move ahead of the ruling party. The JLP would do better to concentrate on people who voted for the PNP in 1997, who became disgruntled, but still decided to offer support to the party.
"The JLP will have to gear the remainder of its campaign to convincing these weak PNP supporters to switch their support to the JLP, a position they had chosen more than six months ago," Stone said.
If an election was called now, which party would you vote for?
PNP 37% 37.8%
JLP 31.7% 34.4%
NDM/NJA 0.2% 0.2%
UPP 1.2% 2.0%
Won't say 2.2%
Undecided 14.9% 15.6%
Not voting 12.8% 10.0%
With the poll indicating a likely turnout of 75%, over 70% (93%) of that percentage have indicated a party choice with the majority going to the PNP.
It is unlikely that the turnout will go much higher than the 75%.
It is our experience that the undecided at this time close to an election will not vote.
For the JLP to move ahead in the polls, it will have to convince a significant percentage of the PNP support, especially those who are disgruntled 1997 PNP supporters who have still decided at this time to offer support to the PNP.
The JLP will have to gear the remainder of its campaign to convince these weak PNP supporters to switch their support to the JLP, a position they had chosen more than six months ago.