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AS I SEE THINGS: Are opinion polls relevant?

Brian M. Francis, [email protected]

AS I SEE THINGS: Are opinion polls relevant?

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FROM TIME TO TIME, whether it is in Barbados or other Caribbean states or more developed countries such as the United States (US), public opinion polls are conducted.

This is to gauge the mood of the people and to determine, to some extent, what are key issues which the electorate expect to be addressed by the present or future government.

Amongst the most popular of these are political polls, which have been used to determine the likely outcomes of general elections all across the globe.

Interestingly, in the US, for example, exit polls are a normal part of the overall exercise. These exit polls are used to determine the outcomes of elections based on the information gathered from actual voters on polling day.

In the Caribbean, polls are usually conducted before an election and midway during the term of the new administration. A recent example of that was done and the outcome published here in Barbados only last week.

The polls conducted before an election often look at issues such as leadership, policies, popularity, trust and the party most likely to win whenever the elections are called.

The mid-term polls tend generally to focus on the performance of the government and the opposition to date, implementation of policies and programmes and leadership styles of members of the government and opposition.

Whether in the Caribbean or elsewhere, these public opinion polls often generate a tremendous amount of discussions among critics and supporters alike.

Those in whose favour the polls point usually take the results with pride. Those on the losing end more than likely would find one reason or another to cast cold water over the results of the polls.

These issues aside, the important question that arises is: Are public opinion polls, specifically those of a political nature, relevant? Logically, the answer to that important question could very well be a complex response. But the experience here in Barbados from the polls conducted in relation to the last general elections should by now bring home to most people the relevance of conducting such an exercise and reporting the outcomes in a timely manner.

In short, the outcome of the elections contradicted the predictions of the polls partly because the trailing party used the results to fine tune their strategies in constituencies where they were likely to lose and those efforts paid huge dividends in the end. And that is a vital lesson that all and sundry should incorporate into their political activities going forward.

Hence, both of the leading political parties in Barbados should take seriously the findings of the recent mid-term polls conducted by CADRES and re-configure their political and economic strategies to conform to the views of the public.

The rise in the popularity of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the decline in support for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) cannot and should not be interpreted by anyone as a certain victory for the BLP in the next general elections.

The mid-term polls reflect public opinion at present. But certainly, the views of the public can change quickly. And that, to me, is one of the critical factors that ought to make opinion polls highly relevant to voters (especially the undecided) as well as political parties.

Email: [email protected]