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PURELY POLITICAL: Uncertain voters cause for worry


Albert Brandford

PURELY POLITICAL: Uncertain voters cause for worry

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It would be difficult to question the swing analysis done by CADRES in its September poll showing a complete reversal in four years of voter intent in relation to the two major political parties, especially given the organization’s accurate prediction of the outcome in the 2008 general election.
What has caught my attention, however, is the matter of the leadership in the parties, and by extension, the country.
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that pollster Peter Wickham has identified the people whom he would wish to see lead this country in the future – he is extremely sweet on Chris Sinckler of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and only a little less so on Mia Mottley of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
These choices have become more evident in the aftermath of the untimely death of Prime Minister David Thompson.
Perhaps a backward glance at the poll commissioned by the Democratic Labour Party, which was conducted between August 7 and 17, 2009, may offer some insight into the pollster’s thinking and how it could influence his preferences.
It would be recalled that the 2009 DLP poll dealt extensively with the issue of leadership and was bold and forward-looking enough to ask about the leadership of the political parties in 2013 – the presumed year of the next general election.
On reflection, there might have been more in that particular mortar than merely a pestle with respect to the visionary questioning in the poll.
Given that the poll was commissioned by the DLP, the party would have had some very good reasons for requesting it, since Thompson was a young man, obviously in his political prime, and had only mere months before pulled off his most spectacular coup in capturing the ultimate prize that he had so assiduously sought all his life.
I find curious the CADRES admission that “the final leadership question (in the survey) was novel in that it sought to determine whether Barbadians wished to see a person other than the current leader lead the respective parties into the 2013 election . . . ”.
CADRES went on to make an interesting observation, considering that the poll revealed Thompson was indeed the man of the moment: “It would appear that at the national level there is a level of satisfaction with the leadership of Thompson and a consistent expectation regarding his intention to lead the DLP into the 2013 [general election].”
It leads me to ask why would there have been any doubt in the public’s mind about the “expectation” regarding Thompson’s intention to lead the DLP in 2013 in the month of August 2009?
The language makes one even more suspicious about the considerations behind the poll commissioned by the DLP, especially given the unfortunate turn of events regarding Thompson’s health in the ensuing months prior to his death in October 2010.
In the same poll, Freundel Stuart’s and Chris Sinckler’s numbers were statistically the same on the issue of future leadership, yet CADRES observed that: “It is noteworthy however that there is some interest in the candidacy of Sinckler who has double digit support across the country and the support of 19 per cent of Dems for a leadership run in 2013.”
By the way, Stuart’s support among the Dems was 16 per cent.      
The public show of support for Sinckler by the kingmaker and the pollster in the face of not so compelling numbers makes one wonder about the political considerations behind the poll. In fact, among the uncertain voters category that has been used to elevate both Sinckler and Mottley in the polls since 2009, Owen Arthur got 23 per cent of the category compared to six per cent for Sinckler and Mottley, 12 per cent.
For some so far inexplicable reason, Sinckler commanded a whopping 26 per cent of the uncertain voters compared to Arthur’s ten per cent in the most recent poll, while Mottley got 41 per cent.
So one must ask, even if CADRES is able to allocate the uncertain voters on the basis of the recent electoral history, on what basis would Mottley receive four votes to Owen Arthur’s one vote among uncertain voters, when in the same poll, he more than doubled the support of Mottley among the BLP supporters?
What has to be explained is why would the preference for leadership among uncertain voters be so distinctly different from their party preference? Further, why would the allocation of uncertain voters show even greater diversity of preference for leadership, than the certain voters, within the former’s party of choice?
I must confess my discomfort with the allocation of the uncertain voters’ preferences for leadership.     
In last week’s SUNDAY SUN, Wickham wrote: “As was done on the last occasion, a listing of preferred leaders was compiled which isolates the views of the uncertain voter. In this instance, Mottley moves to the fore as the person most preferred by voters who have refused to tell interviewers whom they will vote for in the coming elections, followed by Sinckler.”
In light of the emphasis placed on the uncertain voters’ opinions on preferred leaders and the significant movement in their opinions, this is one area in which the CADRES poll confuses a mind that is not statistically inclined. The lack of clarity in how the uncertain voters’ preference for leadership is allocated should be addressed.
Moreover, Wickham wrote: “The next most preferred leader is Arthur who is statistically similar to Minister of Health Donville Inniss.” This conclusion reinforces my concern.
In fact, notwithstanding that Arthur more than doubled Mottley’s support for leadership in the BLP, the uncertain voters were used to conclude that “the top three people [Arthur, Mottley and Sinckler] on the list are all equally as popular with Barbadians . . .”.
What makes the allocation of the uncertain voters in the leadership race more troubling is that their allocation in the party support seems to be rather more even. On this score, Wickham wrote: “The CADRES prediction and swing analysis is a poll feature developed to predict an election outcome notwithstanding the presence of substantial uncertain voters, and relies on the recent electoral history of both parties.”
As I said at the beginning, based on recent electoral history, the CADRES swing analysis cannot really be faulted.
But the attention that CADRES pays to the uncertain voters is unmistakable and Wickham noted: “It is important that both parties reflect seriously on the views and opinions of the uncertain vote which is still sufficiently large enough to alter the course of the election.”
The emphasis that Wickham places on his preferred leaders is captured in the unclear allocation of the poll’s uncertain voters and he accused both political parties of ignoring the preferences of the group.
He concluded that “. . . the party which speaks most effectively to this group of voters could yet prevail in the upcoming election”.
To my mind, the role of the uncertain voters is clearer in the swing analysis than it is in the analysis of the preferred leaders.
• Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent.

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