Vishnu Bisram’s poll was on target and not wrong as stated by Mr. Chris Ram who
conducted a detailed disaggregated analysis of the findings simply to prove the poll is incorrect in “Bisram must review his polling methods” (KN Dec 9). I welcome any analysis and recommendations on how to improve or institutionalize polling. But Ram made no such offerings. Instead, he set out to do a hatch job in a failed bid to discredit my polling. It is obvious that he has an axe to grind by not being fair and objective for he has not identified one positive aspect of the entire polling exercise. An impartial investigator and objective analyst would give both sides of the findings – accuracy and inaccuracy of the findings.
Ram did not engage in any unbiased, impartial deconstruction of the findings. Ram looked at specific numbers from the regions to show how they deviated from the actual results and
failed to look at the poll holistically.
Substantively, the findings are accurate on the whole with a few deviations. Ram identified a mere 16 out of 48 instances in which he claims the poll was off target (without taking into consideration the percentage of undecided voters) and criticized the poll. But he made no mention of the 32 other correct instances and offered no credit to the pollster for these cases.
Chris Ram fails to demonstrate an adequate level of understanding of opinion polls since he does not to understand the margin of error or percentage of undecided voters or the unknown dynamics in the voting. As such, he conducted a flawed analysis.
Clearly it is not Bisram who got it wrong but Ram in his biased analysis. There were three other polls released on the elections that Ram did not criticize for failing to even come close to the election outcome. For example, the APNU Clive Thomas poll gave APNU 40% of the votes (obtained from only five regions) and the closest rival (presumably PPP) 30%. The APNU
poll was based on a projected turnout of 90% when the actual turnout was 73%. NACTA’s turnout was 70%. Bhaskar Sharma’s poll gave the AFC 35% and the other parties trailing. And another poll (only identified as CNN) whose findings were much touted by AFC promoters had the PPP at 34%, APNU 29% and AFC 27%. And how about the Freddie Kissoon “poll” which said the AFC would win, APNU second and PPP third – the complete opposite of the results. And how about a criticism of Maxwell who said PPP will get below 40%.
Ram failed to explain the anomalies of the other polls and why he opted not to analyze them and why he focused only on NACTA’s.
Chris Ram also failed to mention that the poll was released three days before the elections. Peoples’ voting intention are not static. They change and would have changed by election day. Be that as it may, the NACTA poll captured peoples’ opinions from July thru November as it did also over the last several years when it identified Ralph Ramkarran and Moses Nagamootoo as the best candidates for PPP to capture a majority of votes. And the NACTA poll consistently showed the PPP struggling to get a majority of support since July.
An updated poll sent to the media in Trinidad on the evening of Saturday before the elections showed changes in the mood of the electorate with the AFC (hovering at 11%) and PPP (hovering at 50%) slipping among Africans, APNU (36%) gaining among Africans and the
Indians splitting their votes. It was not practical for updated numbers to be published in the media in light of election day restrictions on poll numbers. All the new numbers were within the margin of errors. The support for the regions had also changed substantially which would have reduced Ram’s 16 instances of deviations from actual results out of 48 cases. Also, in his analysis, Ram did not take into consideration the almost 3% undecided voters which would have further reduced the 16 deviations from the actual results.
Ram failed to mention that the poll identified several dynamics (turnout rate, pull of race, division among Indian voters between PPP and AFC, Nagamootoo factor, etc.) were at
play that would alter the support of the parties. Nagamootoo introduced one of the most volatile dynamics in the elections. In poll after poll, NACTA stated that Nagamootoo was enormously
popular among the grass roots and his presence was needed to consolidate the PPP’s base. The same was said of Ralph Ramkarran who was needed by the PPP to retain the urban, middle class, business and professional class Indian voters. The PPP failed to heed the findings.
Any serious, objective, impartial, unbiased professional analysis would take note of the many factors outlined in the poll. But Ram did not pay heed to these notations in the poll.
There are certain things I learn from the exercise and would do
differently in future polls.
Contrary to what Ram penned, the poll had nothing to do with the PPP losing its majority. The tone of the speeches, the perceived neglect of supporters, and refusal to heed the warning of the NACTA polls cost the PPP their majority. The NACTA polls were not conducted to help or hurt a party but to provide information on support for the parties. The AFC and APNU may very well have used the information from the NACTA polls to address their weaknesses in canvassing voters in areas where they had weak support. The PPP was convinced it would win 60% of the votes and as such ignored the polls’ dire warnings opting instead to believe its own unpopular comrades. It would be productive if party officials would listen to what the constituents tell independent pollsters like NACTA.
On his comment of the large size of the poll’s margin of error, it is not manufactured by the pollster but come from the sample size. The larger the sample, the smaller the margin of error and vice versa.
Ram’s analysis of the NACTA poll is flawed and biased exposing Ram’s limited understanding of polls. The Bisram poll was on target. There are areas in which the poll needs improvement and I intend to work on these to improve polling in Guyana. Critiques focusing on improvements are welcome.
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