This week’s overall development as Newsmaker of the Week are the varying perspectives and reactions to an Opposition People’s National Party (PNP)-commissioned Don Anderson poll, which showed that party for the first time in several years, leading the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) by just over five percentage points, expanding its lead since a February opinion poll.
While that finding was well celebrated by PNP supporters, many of them have ignored an eye opening finding that the party’s President, Mark Golding, has lost ground in his positive favourability ratings among Jamaicans.
General Elections are not due until 2025, but there are signs that the two political parties could shift gears as Local Government elections, expected by February 2024, draw near.
With the two major parties staging various divisional conferences across the island, the political temperature in the country is rising feverishly.
The findings relative to the party standing of the Don Anderson poll, released on Tuesday, indicated that 30.2 per cent of electors would mark their ballots for the Opposition party, while 25 per cent indicated a preference for the JLP.
The voter intent for the PNP has increased by 2.1 per cent when compared to 28.1 per cent who picked the political party in the last PNP-commissioned opinion poll in February 2023.
However, the voter intent for the JLP declined by 2.9 per cent, as against the 27.9 per cent who sided with the JLP in the survey that was done in February.
The latest opinion poll was conducted between June 8 and June 14 among 1,012 respondents, with a margin of error of three per cent.
That particular finding relative to the party standings raised eyebrows among some, while the JLP supporters were early out of the blocks in branding the polls as being fake.
The Andrew Holness-led JLP even rejected the PNP-commissioned poll findings as being “fictitious” and “contrived”, as well as being part of a wider thrust by the Opposition in a “misinformation” campaign.
“The poll is sponsored by the PNP and its findings are designed to artificially influence public opinion,” declared JLP General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang, in a release issued moments after a mid-morning press briefing by the Mark Golding-led Opposition party.
Added Chang: “The release of (the) party-sponsored poll is part of the PNP’s propaganda and misinformation campaign intended to shore up a weak leader, sow discontent, and distract the country with political mischief.”
Many political observers and PNP supporters initially thought that JLP leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness was in a close race for popularity with Opposition leader and PNP President, Mark Golding.
As presented by the party at its press briefing, Holness continues to lead Golding in the favourability ratings, with the former being viewed positively by 54.5 per cent of respondents, and 53.2 per cent viewing the PNP leader positively.
But a closer analysis of those percentages by the pollster, Don Anderson, during a radio interview on Tuesday, showed that Golding’s ‘very good’ or ‘good’ perception had declined by two per cent when compared with a February PNP opinion poll that was also done Anderson’s team.
“So, 14.7 per cent – we’re talking about February 2023 (poll results) – rated Mark Golding positive, meaning ‘very good’ or ‘good’,” Anderson outlined.
“Using the same question and same five-point differential, the positive rating for Mark Golding fell by two percentage points to 12.1 per cent (in the June opinion poll),” Anderson disclosed.
Therefore, this meant that the PNP had combined Golding’s ‘very good’, ‘good’, and ‘average’ ratings to arrive at a score of 53.2 per cent overall positive rating.
Anderson also analysed Holness’ positivity rating, which showed him receiving a 21.6 per cent combined ‘good’ and ‘very good’ positivity rating.
“In the positivity rating for Holness, 25.3 per cent (was received) in the February poll, (and) the positivity rating for Holness fell to 21.6 per cent in June,” Anderson explained.
Don Anderson (file photo)
Holness’ average positivity rating in the February PNP-commissioned poll was 30.6 per cent, while in June it climbed to 32.8 per cent.
That bit of news relative to Golding losing ground in his positivity rating had a seemingly calming effect on JLP supporters, but still many of them questioned the authenticity of the overall poll findings, especially in relation to the party standings.
“Well if PNP (supposedly) alter the poll and make Mark (Golding) look favourable, well mi kinda have questions about Don Anderson and his polling,” said a woman on Twitter.
On Facebook, one woman opined: “It doesn’t look good if the PNP is polling better than its leader, so change the leader of the PNP now.”
Asked a man: “If Mark Golding can’t get more popular than (Andrew) Holness, then what ago happen when election draws near? Him (Golding) going poll eight or five per cent?”
One popular PNP supporter countered the negative comments being made about Golding, especially those relative to changing him as the party’s leader.
“Changing Mark (Golding) will never happen. He brought the PNP up in the polls and Dr (Peter) Phillips (former PNP President) could not do it. So Markie G (Mark Golding) wi say,” declared the woman.
Overall, some persons argued that the JLP must analyse the poll findings, instead of criticising them.
“Government badness in all forms going to make the JLP Government and PM lose the next general election and local government election because they are not listening to the people…,” wrote a male Facebook user.
Shared a woman: “If I was Andruh (Andrew Holness), I would listen to what the people have been saying and come again with new energy and shuffle the Cabinet again with new energy.”
But one man disagreed with that position.
“The prime minister is doing just fine. Mark (Golding) can’t win the next election. JLP third term loading,” he opined.
Other findings of the opinion poll showed that of the 1,012 persons who were surveyed, 53.3 per cent said the Holness-led Administration was leading Jamaica in the wrong direction, while 15.6 per cent said the country was being led in the right direction under the JLP.
In another category in the latest Don Anderson poll, 47.6 per cent of respondents said the JLP-led Government does not deserve a third term in office, while 31.6 per cent said they deserve another term.
Approximately 20.8 per cent of respondents were not sure.
Another area the opinion poll tried to gauge were the difficulties being presently faced in the country. Crime and violence was the top issue for most Jamaicans.
In commenting on the overall poll findings, Golding said he was encouraged by the results. However, he said the party would not be “complacent” as it continues its candidate selection exercise.
He also declared that he was not worried following recent comments by Holness that with his popularity, he (Holness) can turn the perceived tide of discontent against JLP by hitting the political ground.
“I don’t know what the prime minister thinks is the current situation in the country,” Golding said at the PNP’s press conference on Tuesday.
“For him (Holness) to think that he can suddenly just repeat, like he said, turning it on and achieving popularity, given where Jamaica is today…, I believe the Jamaican people have passed that stage now,” Golding argued.
“What I am worried about is what we (the PNP) do, which is that we are prepared, that we are resolute, we are vigilant, that we are organised, we are united, so the Jamaican people can know that the PNP will not sell dem out, and the PNP will defend their rights and defend their interests,” said the PNP leader.
Further, the PNP president and Opposition leader insisted that his political party has been “turning it on”, which he said is why the party’s overall poll numbers continue to rise.
When quizzed on the cost of the PNP’s efforts in “turning it up” relative to their political work nationally, Golding said: “The PNP has never primarily relied on money to achieve good fortune with the Jamaican people.
“It’s all about organisation and message for us, and I think that will continue to be the case. So, I don’t think money has been a big factor in what you’re seeing in terms of the trend in the polls,” Golding suggested.
Meanwhile, political commentators have also been weighing in on the new findings of the PNP-funded survey.
For Shallman Scott, he said the opinion poll indicated that voter apathy remains a challenge locally.
“We are seeing a lacklustre response, both in respect to the PNP, although they have made some movement upwards, and in respect to the Jamaica Labour Party that has made some movement downwards,” he told a radio talk show last week.
“It is important that people participate strongly in the election of their Government,” he reminded.
In the meantime, political commentator and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Elon University in North Carolina, United States, Dr Damion Blake, said in a recent radio interview that the opinion poll appears to hint that the PNP is settled.
“The number one thing though is that the PNP base is sharpening, and the party is settling down and is coming together,” he said.
Blake said, however, that the governing JLP should not be alarmed at the poll findings, as globally, there is what he termed an “incumbency wave”.
He added that, “It is very difficult for a political party to maintain that shine after having two-terms (in Government).”
Blake said the JLP Government has time to reverse the poll findings by “pushing forward its programmes around transformation,” among other things.