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Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Alliance For Change poll
The Alliance For Change poll

Mixed voters hold balance of power

Washington-based polling firm, Frank Luntz and Associates, conducted a poll last March to garner voters' opinion on the political climate in Guyana , the manner in which national issues have been addressed, and their choice of President for the upcoming general elections among other matters.

This survey was conducted through 1,036 in-person interviews in all parts of Guyana . The interviewers were recruited and trained by Frank Luntz and Associates.

The survey was taken in such a way that it reflects a statistically valid sample of the entire electorate in Guyana .

According to the pollster, were every single voter in the nation to be interviewed, there is a 95 per cent chance that the final results would vary from those in the survey by three points or less one way or the other.

In technical terms, this means that there is a 95 per cent confidence of a statistical margin of error of plus or minus three points.

Below, Kaieteur News publishes a summary of the poll:

Guyana is a country that is tiring of the sharp racial divisions, which have characterized its politics for the past 40 years. With about a quarter of the vote cast by racially ‘mixed' voters and an increasing disenchantment with the leadership of both political parties by their respective ethnic constituencies, the time is ripe for major change and racial healing.

The voters agree that the Alliance For Change (AFC), under the leadership of Raphael Trotman, offers a chance to transcend race and bring the nation together. The high hopes the nation has for the AFC are particularly prevalent in the African-Guyanese community but are present in the Indian neighborhoods as well.

Indeed, the interesting thing about Guyana today is how the mixed voters and the Indian voters have increasingly negative opinions of the PPP/C and how the mixed and Black voters are developing negative attitudes toward the PNCR.

This alienation of the parties from their traditional ethnic voter bases opens the door wide to the AFC.

Can the AFC Win?

While the odds are against AFC actually winning the presidency outright, the chances are excellent that it will command a large enough share of the vote - and therefore of Parliament - to be the crucial balance of power between the two other parties, giving it the pivotal, powerful role in national policy.

The survey indicates that AFC, despite never having run a national campaign, starts out with an excellent vote share. At the moment, Raphael Trotman, as the candidate of the AFC, runs a strong third:

In the votes for president, PPP/C's Bharrat Jagdeo gained 29%, PNCR's Robert Corbin got 26% and Trotman 14%. The undecided voters made up 31%.

The high undecided vote, and the fact that Trotman opens the race with half the vote total of either of his much better known rivals, indicates that his chances for amassing a large vote are excellent.

But even if Trotman just wins the 14% of the vote he is now getting, it would suffice to be the balance of power after the election. With PPP/C's Jagdeo and PNC/R's Corbin running neck and neck, Trotman's vote is obviously in a position to make or break either party. When this strength is reflected in Parliament, it is the key balance of power.

Mixed voters give Trotman his best showing, awarding him one vote in five. His 20% of the mixed vote is right on the heels of the 28% Corbin wins.

In the vote for president among mixed voters, Jagdeo received 15%, Corbin 28% and Trotman 20%. The undecided were 37%.

Again, the large undecided vote among mixed voters indicates a high level of dissatisfaction with Corbin and the PNCR - good news for the AFC.

But Trotman not only gets 20% of the vote among mixed voters, but 19% among Blacks as well.

In the vote for President among Black voters, Jagdeo received 5%, Corbin 50%, and Trotman 19%. The undecided votes stood at 26%.

Even among Indian voters, Trotman shows strength, finishing ahead of Corbin and the PNCR.

This set of voters gave Jagdeo 59%, Corbin 5% and Trotman 8%. The undecided voters were 27%.

To test the viability of the Trotman candidacy and the proposed AFC message, the pollsters read voters two statements, which summarized the AFC position and asked if they agreed or disagreed with it. Afterwards, the pollsters asked the sample again for whom they would vote in light of the information provided in the statement.

The results were quite gratifying for the AFC. Jagdeo dropped from 29% to 26%. Corbin fell from 26% to 25%, and Trotman rose from 14% to 17%.

Among the Black voters, Trotman increased his vote share by three points.

But among Indian voters, while Trotman only rose by one point, Jagdeo fell by six with five points switching to undecided. In a real election, Trotman would be in an excellent position to harvest these votes as they fall off of Jagdeo.

As expected, however, it was among mixed voters that Trotman and the AFC pick up the largest increase in votes, indicative of how well their message appeals to this key voter segment.

So dramatic is the change among mixed voters, that Trotman emerges tied with Corbin for the lead in this electoral segment.

To fathom why AFC is so successful in its appeal, the pollsters said there is need to examine closely the attitudes of the Indian community toward Jagdeo and the PPP/C, and those of the Black community toward the PNCR and Corbin.

Image of the PPP/C and President Jagdeo in the Indian community

President Jagdeo and the PPP/C are highly polarizing. While Indians have a generally favourable opinion of Jagdeo by 86-14, Blacks see him negatively by 43-50. Mixed voters rate him 54% favorable but 43% unfavorable.

But much of the approval Jagdeo gets among mixed and Black voters seems to be reflective of the automatic respect due the president of a country. When asked about the PPP/C, Blacks and mixed voters are decidedly less generous. Blacks give the party a negative rating by a lopsided 26-61 while mixed voters rate it negatively by 33-56.

The most interesting finding of the survey, however, is the extent of ambivalence among Indian voters themselves toward the PPP/C. Only 71 % indicate a favourable view of the party (while 16% see it unfavorably).

But when the pollsters probed deeper into their opinions, they found a large reservoir of discontent in the Indian community with their political leadership, a feeling they have had to repress in order to secure political protection against what the Indians see as the potential racial extremism of the African-Guyanese alternative.

The discontent of about a third of the Indian community with the PPP/C is obvious when the poll asked their opinions of the party:

• 38% of Indians said the PPP/C has “let drug dealers get too much power”

• 43% of Indians felt the PPP/C has not done a good job of fighting drug kingpins

• One quarter of Indians said the PPP/C has been “in power too long”

• 27% of Indian voters say that the PPP/C “does not do a good job addressing the real needs of the Indian community”

• By 50-39, Indian voters say there is “too much corruption in the PPP/C”

• One third of the Indian voters say it would be “better to replace the PPP/C with an ethnically balanced political party.”

So why does the PPP/C continue to have such a strong hold on the votes of the Indian community? Because they are afraid of what would happen if the Black-dominated PNCR were to take power. By 46-39 Indian voters conceded that they want to keep the PPP/C in power “only because they are the way to avoid the repression which we experienced in the 70s and 80s”.

Indian voters do not believe that the PNCR has learned much or grown since the days of repression. Asked if the party has “changed since the 70s and 80s and abandoned its programme of repression of the Indian community, Indian voters said it had not by 26-48.

But the mirror image of this growing doubt among Indian voters about the PPP/C is the increasing dislike of the PNCR among black voters.

Image of the PNCR and Robert Corbin in the Black Community

The most surprising finding of this survey was the increasing disillusionment among African-Guyanese with the PNCR, the party that supposedly represents them and addresses their needs.

Indeed, one-third of African-Guyanese voters said that the PNCR “does not do a good job of meeting the needs of the Black community.”

Twenty-nine percent of Blacks said there was “too much corruption in the PNCR and about half said it would be better to replace the PNCR with “an ethnically balanced party.”

African-Guyanese voters understand that it is a fear of the PNCR that permits the PPP/C to draw a virtually unanimous vote from the Indian community and stay in power. By 48-28, Blacks agreed that Indian voters are “reluctant to support a party that includes African leaders” because of their memories “of the repression of the 70s and 80s. By 74-14 they feel that the PPP/C “plays on these fears and stays in power by getting most of the Indian vote.”

Nor do Black voters believe that the Indian community is being paranoid in its distrust of the PNCR. By 37-39, Black voters say that the PNCR has not really changed since the days of repression and that it has not learned its lesson.

Wise to the way the PPP/C fans fears of what would happen if the PNCR took power, Black voters agree by 45-43 that it would be better to “replace the PNCR with an ethnically balanced and more diverse party.”

The AFC will not find its political base among either Indian or Black voters but among the quarter of all voters who are of mixed ethnicity. These voters, part Indian and part Black, show a strong disenchantment with both the PPP/C and the PNCR, which leaves them vulnerable to the AFC.

(To be continued)