Traditional voting patterns vs transformational politics

T'dad pollster says Portland Eastern election suggests evolution in political thinking

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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Trinidadian pollster Derek Ramsamooj has labelled the Portland Eastern parliamentary by-election, scheduled for this Thursday, as a straight battle between traditional voting patterns and transformational politics.

“The Portland East election seems to suggest an evolution in the political thinking of the average voter away from traditional voting behaviour to that of wanting a better quality of life within the shortest period of time,” Ramsamooj told the Jamaica Observer on Friday, two days after he completed a second poll in the constituency.

The polls, Ramsamooj said, were commissioned by “a number of stakeholders, both private and political, including the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)”, and were conducted on March 16 and 17, just after Nomination Day, and March 26 and 27 after the presentation of the budget in Parliament.

Ramsamooj said that while the JLP was among those who commissioned the polls, he wanted to make it clear that he would not compromise his track record of collating and analysing political data across the Caribbean.

In the 2016 General Election the JLP utilised data gathered by Ramsamooj's firm, Connect Consulting, from 14 marginal constituencies to win a razor-thin one-seat majority in the Parliament.

This Thursday's election has been called to fill the vacancy created by the death of the PNP's Dr Lynvale Bloomfield early last month.

The pollster said that since the 2016 General Election he and his team have been tracking political events in Jamaica.

“The election in Portland East has given us another opportunity to understand the political transformation that may be occurring in Jamaica,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“This election is about whether or not the electorate will stick with traditional voting patterns or be prepared to look at transformational politics... and the question is, does Andrew Holness represent transformational politics,” Ramsamooj said.

His reference to Holness, the prime minister and JLP leader, has its foundation in the politician's presentation of himself, during his campaign for office, as a transformational leader who would not embrace the negative practices of what is termed “old-style politics”.

According to Ramsamooj, his research over the years since the 2016 election has uncovered “a political trifecta that is shaping the evolution of the politics in Jamaica”.

“We have seen a clear trend in which the majority of persons believe that the country is heading in the right direction, that the JLP Government has the confidence of the electorate of providing solutions to Jamaica's problems and delivering a better quality of life to the average family,” Ramsamooj said, adding that of equal significance is an indication that Holness's leadership appears to be more effective than that of Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips.

Asked how he could make such a general statement from a constituency poll, Ramsamooj said: “This is within the context of the historical political behaviour of a constituency such as Portland East, which is traditionally a PNP constituency. We're seeing perhaps a change of the electorate's political thinking where they're no longer willing to subscribe to traditional voting behaviour and would want a leadership and representation that can deliver a better quality of life.”

Pointing out that he has detected a change in the electorate, the pollster said: “The digital voter is much more responsive to the hope of a better quality of life within the election cycle. This election seems to suggest that first-time voters, swing voters, and voters who are below the age of 40 who were born after Independence seem much more amenable to political change.”

According to Ramsamooj, one of the sentiments he heard being expressed in the field was that under the PNP Government a better quality of life was not achieved, especially as that party held the seat for approximately three decades.

He said the issues that he found were of most concern to constituents were jobs; infrastructure development, especially roads and bridges; the availability of water; improved agricultural services; and development of the tourism sector.

Asked whether he believes the issues of colour or class that have surfaced on the platform during campaigning will factor in the election, Ramsamooj said: “For the average Jamaican in this constituency the issue would not be that of colour or personality, the issue would perhaps be leadership that they can trust to empathise with their daily sentiments and who they believe have the capacity to improve the quality of their lives.”

He also said that the candidates' connectivity to the constituents will play a role in the election result, as will the voters' perception of whether the prime minister or the opposition leader can help to improve their lives.

However, Ramsamooj pointed out that election day machinery will be crucial to the election outcome.

“The higher the voter turnout is the greater the probability of the JLP securing a victory, because the results seem to indicate that the undecided voters are trending towards supporting the JLP,” he said.

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