Listen to the polls
THOUGH IT IS TRUE that “polls don’t vote”, it is equally factual that the dominant opinions expressed in them are often the wishes of the majority of voters.
This has been demonstrated by voters in the last two general elections, where the outcome was in line with the projections in THE NATION polls conducted by pollster Peter Wickham and his CADRES team.
Wickham’s poll report prior to the January 15, 2008 election stated:
“Although the outlook for the DLP (Democratic Labour Party) is positive at this time, there is still some way to go . . . and since a day is a long time in politics, it is still possible that the BLP (Barbados Labour Party) can drop a proverbial “bombshell” in the remaining days, in the same way that the DLP did last Wednesday, and change things.
“[Nevertheless], the DLP appears to be heading towards Government at this time with no less than 20 seats, while the BLP seems destined to occupy the opposition benches with around 10 seats.
“It should be acknowledged, however, that these data are already one week old and much has happened in that time that could further exacerbate the size of the DLP’s win or minimize the impact of the national swing estimated here.”
As predicted, the DLP wrested the Government from the BLP, winning 20 seats to ten. Likewise, the poll report for the May 21, 2003 general elections forecasting that the BLP would regain the Government, but with a reduced majority, was equally accurate.
Given the consistent accuracy of THE NATION/CADRES’ opinion polls, therefore, no politician or Government can ignore the views expressed.
This fact could prove a major problem for the Freundel Stuart administration as to what action to take on The Alexandra School. For though the recommendations coming out of the inquiry by retired judge Frederick Waterman are yet to be revealed, most of the public – through THE NATION’s September poll – have stated that embattled principal Jeff Broomes should remain at the St Peter institution, while science teacher Amaida Greaves, who allegedly did not teach her students for an entire term last year, should be removed.
If Government acted according to these poll results, chaos could follow as the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is certain to take to the streets again. The union insists that the only acceptable decision is Broomes’ separation from Alexandra and actually reiterated this in a letter to the Ministry of Education at the conclusion of the inquiry.
Of course, the Prime Minister is not bound to act according to the poll’s findings. Yet ignoring the prevailing public sentiment could prove detrimental to his Government’s already battered image.
Herein lies a dilemma for Mr Stuart. Whichever option he takes is bound to be contentious. It is a no-win situation, but the Prime Minister must make a decision soon as the entire country is anxiously waiting.