By Curtis Williams, Trinidad & Tobago Guardian,
With a mere 11 days to go before the 2020 General Election, a poll commissioned by Guardian Media Limited and conducted by HHB and Associates shows that the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) has a clear lead over its main rival, the United National Congress (UNC), in the crucial marginal constituency of Moruga/Tableland.
The seat in South East Trinidad is considered crucial for both parties in the race to Whitehall, as it has changed hands in the last two general elections, with the party winning it also eventually forming the government.
According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 6 per cent, the PNM is clearly in the lead although its standard-bearer, Winston “Gypsy” Peters has high negatives for voters.
The poll asked 200 registered voters if there was a general election on August 10, 2020, whom they would vote for. With respect to which party they would vote for, 34% reported the PNM and 23% the UNC. However, a whopping 27 per cent said they were unsure whom they would vote for and whichever party is able to get those undecided could win the seat. Eleven per cent of the respondents refused to say whom they would support.
The PNM’s lead over the UNC is based more on the party’s strength in the constituency and not on the candidate it chose, according to the survey.
In terms of favourability, 39 per cent of the respondents found the UNC’s Michelle Benjamin as “favourable”. This is nine percentage points higher than those rating the PNM’s Peters as “favourable”. Peters’ favourability rating stood at 30 per cent. What could be worrying for the PNM going forward is that a high 37 per cent saw Peters as unfavourable while Benjamin’s negatives were much lower at 17 per cent.
According to the poll, the UNC’s candidate outperforms the PNM’s candidate with respect to ‘doing a good job’ (29% for Benjamin as opposed to 20% for Peters).
When it comes to caring for people, Benjamin also outpaced Peters with 39% of the respondents saying she cared for people as opposed to 34% for Peters.
The voters in Moruga/Tableland were also asked what they disliked about the candidates and Peters’ main problems seem to be that he is perceived as being uncaring about people (19%) and that he does nothing (17%).
Looking at Benjamin, her main problem was also the perception that she does not care about people (27%). Ironically, her perceived lack of caring for people is higher than that of Peters although he has overall higher negatives.
What are the things that the voters in this rural constituency consider the most important issues that influence how they will vote come August 10, 2020? For constituents, infrastructure (96%) was the main driver followed by unemployment (95%) and youth training and development (95%).
Situated as it is on the coastline, the voters identified issues of illegal Venezuelan immigrants (69%) and Corruption (65%) as lower on their list in terms of what will affect their vote, with Letting Foreign Nationals Come Home (53%) last on the list.
With decades as a national figure, the PNM candidate – Peters – is, not surprisingly, better known (84%) in the constituency than the UNC’s Benjamin (77%), according to the HHB and Associates poll.
The findings were based on a stratified random sample of 200 electors (those registered to vote) and was drawn from the constituency. The polling divisions (PDs) were grouped by “loyalty” to the UNC/PNM. Loyal PDs were defined as those in which the winning party had a difference from the loser of 15% or greater. All other PDs were deemed to be “marginal”. This allowed HHB and Associates to select smaller samples from “loyal” polling divisions and larger samples from “marginal” divisions.
Face to face interviews were utilised and the margin of error was 6%. The demographic characteristics of the sample with respect to age, gender, race and religion reflect the pollster’s estimate of the characteristics of the constituency as a whole.
Main photo: Statistics gained from poll