Jamaica Gleaner / With one week to go before voters in South East St Mary go to the polls in a by-election, Trinidadian pollster Derek Ramsamooj is projecting a victory for the Jamaica Labour Party’s Dr Norman Dunn, but he has warned the JLP that its win is not assured.
Ramsamooj, who was contracted by the JLP to conduct two polls in the battleground constituency, says his latest test of the pulse of the constituency, which was done last Monday and Tuesday, showed the JLP ahead in all major indicators, but the People’s National Party’s Dr Shane Alexis still in with a shout.
“This election … is going to be about election day machinery and making sure that you can take your supporters out to vote on the day,” said Ramsamooj.
According to him, his poll with a sample size of 1,738 respondents, conducted door-to-door in the four divisions in the constituency, found that 54.32 per cent of the electorate said they would vote JLP, while 33.03 said they would vote PNP and 12.66 said they were either undecided or would not vote.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent, which should indicate a comfortable victory for Dunn come next Monday.
But Ramsamooj indicated that it is much too early for the JLP to start the celebrations as one wrong move could shift the political ground.
“Any political party that makes an unforced error now can build the default vote against them and the beneficiary would be the other party. There must be no errors made, no bad public statements made, and equally, there must be clearly strategised election day machinery to convert all you supporters into voters,” argued Ramsamooj.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that Dunn has the advantage as his party leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, holds a sizeable support lead over PNP President Dr Peter Phillips in the constituency while almost seven out of every 10 respondents said they would rather a representative with ties to the constituency than an outsider such as Alexis.
Alexis still a contender
However, the pollster noted that if voters, particularly those who have not yet made up their minds, are convinced that Alexis would make their circumstances better, they would vote for him.
“It’s also going to be about the electorate having the confidence that whoever they vote for will be able to improve the quality of their lives,” said Ramsamooj, as he identified job creation, infrastructure, help for the farming community as some of the major areas the voters are looking to their new MP to address.
“You have to resonate with the issues of the constituency and the issues that are going to improve people’s lives. The problem is going to be, this is not a campaign in the media like the general election campaign, this is more a ground campaign, a community by community, village by village, family by family campaign.”
Ramsamooj noted that the poll did not find any significant movement in voting plans with the JLP’s revelation that Alexis did not hold a Jamaican passport, as persons’ position on the issue was in line with their party preference.
According to Ramsamooj, even while the citizenship issue might not move voters, it worked as a political strategy.
“What it did have the impact on was taking away the major space from any other issue. When you run a political campaign it is to dominate public spaces in terms of the issues you would like to prevail, and for a number of days this was the issue for media and media space. It basically consolidated the (JLP) base but it is not the determining issue,” argued Ramsamooj.
He pointed out that determining issues could be how both parties perform in the Belfield and Annotto Bay divisions in the constituency.
In the 2016 general election the PNP took the Belfield division by 484 votes and the Annotto Bay division by 269.
But by the local government election months later, the JLP turned around Annotto Bay, winning by 356 votes, and the PNP struggled to hold on to Belfield, winning with a 250-vote margin.
Ramsamooj found the parties in the dogfight in Belfield with the PNP at 46 per cent to the JLP 43, while the JLP was comfortably ahead in Annotto Bay 55 per cent to the PNP’s 31.
The other two divisions in the constituency, Castleton and Richmond, voted JLP in 2016, and the pollster said that is unlikely to change as 71 per cent of the respondents in the former and 50 per cent in the latter said they would vote Dunn.
With questions already being asked about the accuracy of his polls, based on the fact that he was contracted by the JLP, Ramsamooj pointed to his work in the 2016 general election in Jamaica, his polls in Antigua, Belize, Trinidad and other countries as he declared: “My integrity is more important than any client.”
The PNP has reportedly conducted its internal poll but told our news team that it would not release its figures to be matched against the JLP’s “unfortunate effort to mislead the Jamaican electorate”.
However, unofficial data from a PNP insider showed Alexis with 34 per cent support to Dunn’s 28 per cent. The data showed a sample size of 501 eligible voters in the constituency and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent.