Leadership debate had little influence on how Jamaicans voted

Leadership debate had little influence on how Jamaicans voted

Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Fewer than half of respondents in the latest Jamaica Observer/Bill Johnson Poll said they watched or listened to the national debate between Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips before the September 3 General Election. And of that number, most said the debate did not have much influence on their vote.

Johnson and his research team, which had successfully predicted the outcome of the election in their August poll, returned to the field September 11-13 to canvass the views of Jamaicans on the results of the vote, which saw the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) inflicting a crushing 49-14 seat defeat on the People's National Party (PNP).

The pollsters spoke to 1,000 voting-age Jamaicans islandwide, giving the survey a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.

“Only 44 per cent of Jamaicans said they watched or listened to the debate between Andrew Holness and Peter Phillips,” Johnson said. Of that number, 60 per cent identified themselves as JLP supporters, 53 per cent said they supported the PNP, while 37 per cent said they did not vote.

“Nine per cent of the total population said the debate had a great deal of influence on whether or not they voted and whom they voted for; 17 per cent of those who voted JLP and 15 per cent of those who voted PNP felt the debate had a great deal of influence on their vote,” Johnson said.

“Not surprisingly, those who voted for each party thought their candidate did the better job in the debate by very large margins,” the veteran pollster added.

The leadership debate, held on the night of August 29, was the final of three organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission. The first, on August 25, featured teams from the JLP and PNP discussing social issues, while the second, on August 27, was on the economy between Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke and the PNP's spokesman on finance Mark Golding.

On August 17, Jamaica Debates Commission Chairman Noel daCosta had told Observer reporters and editors that since the commission started its own polling, the statistics for the 2007 and 2011 general elections and the 2016 parish council election have consistently showed that 60-67 per cent of those surveyed said the debates helped them to decide how to vote.

“We were expecting when we did that poll first, maybe about four or five per cent. We were startled when we got 20 something per cent and then for the next cycle the numbers were repeated so we feel that it [the debates] does make a significant difference,” daCosta shared at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

According to the commission, 35 per cent of voters in the previous elections said they changed their votes to the Opposition party as a result of the debates, and 78 per cent said the debates addressed their issues.

TOMORROW: Who was more active on the ground?

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