Aug 09, 2020 Letters
The latest findings of the ongoing tracking opinion poll being conducted by this writer for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) shows a very close election in Trinidad Tobago which votes on Monday.
Opinion polls were conducted by four other outfits – three of them put the incumbent African-based PNM in the lead though the margin is almost within striking distance. Another poll puts the opposition Indian-based UNC in the lead but a statistical tie.
The latest survey was conducted by this writer who has been involved in polling in Trinidad since 1990. The latest poll interviewed 920 voters representative of the ethnic demographics (41% Indians, 40% Africans, 19% Mixed/others) of the population and was conducted over the last week.
This writer updated the poll findings thru Saturday morning and puts the race as a dead heat. It could go either way with an edge for the challenger because it has been gaining momentum over the last several weeks. It is possible for the UNC to win the popular votes and still not win the elections. The PNM won the popular votes and seats in 2015.
Unlike in Guyana which has a PR system, Trinidad has a first past the post system in 41 seats; 21 is required for a majority. Trinidad has 39 seats and Tobago 2 seats. Currently, the PNM is defending 23 seats (21 in Trinidad and two in Tobago). The UNC is defending 18 seats, there are very close.
As in Guyana, the electorate is polarized by race. In Trinidad, constituencies have either a large majority African/Mixed or a large majority of Indian. Some seats have a racial balance of both with swing voters from among the different races deciding the outcome.
Both sides have 15 safe ethnic seats in Trinidad. There are nine marginal seats. Of the nine, this pollster has the UNC leading in three and the PNM leading in three. Three seats are a dead heat. In addition, one seat, currently leading by the PNM, faces a strong challenge from former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner who is running under a small party, ILP, he founded in 2013. The Undecided swing voters (5%) in the nine marginal seats would determine the winner. Other pollsters have the undecided between 16% and 24% with two days before voting.
PNM is leading in both seats in Tobago, but the PDP led by public service union President Watson Duke is putting up a strong fight and an upset is not ruled out. If Duke and or Warner were to win seats, a hung parliament could be in the making.
The UNC, led by former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, goes into the election with a strong tailwind and the PNM, led by Dr. Keith Rowley, is on the defensive over widespread disenchantment over governance issues. Only 38% of the population approves of the performance of the government. And some 61% said they are worse off today than they were in 2015 when the PNM took over. The poll also shows Kamla as having a higher approval rating than Rowley and in the rating for empathy and compassion. Rowley leads in handling Covid. The PNM has won the propaganda war in the traditional media and is flooding the airwaves, social media, and publications with advertisement. The PNM is also known to have the best electoral machinery in the entire Caribbean.
Taking everything into consideration, the election is too close to call. Whichever party gets its supporters out on voting day would win the eleven marginals and elections.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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