WITH just over one week remaining before the August 10 general election, the People's National Movement (PNM) has a modest lead of five per cent over the United National Congress (UNC).
Buoyed by a general satisfaction over the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the PNM is currently the choice of 43 per cent of likely voters, compared with 38 per cent who support the UNC, three per cent other parties, and 16 per cent still undecided.
The PNM's lead, while modest, is above the poll's margin of error of 4.5 per cent. With 16 per cent of the likely electorate still undecided, and with fierce competition in swing constituencies in both Trinidad and Tobago, the opposition parties appear to still be within striking distance.
The PNM leads the national race
The PNM currently enjoys a plurality support of 43 per cent of likely voters. The UNC is close behind at 38 per cent, and other parties combine for three per cent.
Of the other parties mentioned by survey respondents, only the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) register near the one per cent mark.
Of the 16 per cent of voters who are undecided, roughly one in ten are considering the PNM and have ruled out the UNC. A similar number is considering the UNC and has ruled out the PNM.
If we were to count these voters as leaning towards the PNM and the UNC, respectively, the race remains tight at 45 per cent PNM, 40 per cent UNC, with just 12 per cent undecided.
The PNM is also leading in an even more predictive measure called voting expectation. When asked which of the two major parties has a better chance of winning, the share of participants who selected the PNM increased to 47 per cent while those selecting the UNC decreased to 35 per cent.
In all, 18 per cent of likely voters believe the PNM and UNC have about an equal chance of winning the election.
In a voting expectation poll, participants are asked which party they expect to win, irrespective of which party they intend to vote for. Voting expectation polls have been proven to be more reliable than voting intention polls in public opinion research.
In the Trinidad and Tobago context, the expectation poll included in the final SBS poll of the 2015 general election (conducted exclusively for the Express) proved to be more reliable than the voting intention poll. In this survey, the high assessment of the PNM's chances stems from eight per cent of UNC voters and 23 per cent of undecideds believe the PNM has a better chance of winning, compared with only two per cent of PNM supporters and 19 per cent of undecideds who believe the UNC has a better chance of winning.
Right direction or wrong track?
A clear plurality (47 per cent) of likely voters believe the country is generally heading in the right direction, six per cent more than the 41 per cent who believe the country is off on the wrong track. The remaining 12 per cent of likely voters are either undecided or have no opinion.
Citizens who believe that the country is heading in the right direction are led by those who believe the coronavirus pandemic is the most pressing issue facing the country. Of these citizens, 67 per cent are satisfied with the country's general direction, with only 21 per cent who are not.
This is in contrast with citizens who are more concerned with crime, the economy, corruption and other issues. Of voters more concerned with such issues, only 36 per cent look favourably on the country's direction, compared to 57 per cent who don't.
Women are more likely than men and citizens of African descent are more likely than those of East Indian descent to be satisfied with the general direction of the country.
Of those who describe themselves as floating voters, a slight plurality (45 per cent) are satisfied with the country's direction, 38 per cent disagree, and 17 per cent are unsure or have no opinion.
Similarly, a slight majority of voters in the critical East-West Corridor and those of mixedrace are more likely to be satisfied, with the 'right direction' polling in the mid-50s in each of those groups.
Base of the PNM and UNC's support
The PNM's lead, although at a modest five per cent, appears to be somewhat stable for now.
They lead the UNC 46-39 among voters who say they are definitely going to vote. In contrast, the UNC leads the PNM 31-22 among those who are still trying to decide whether or not they will exercise their franchise. The ruling party performs best among likely voters who declare the coronavirus pandemic is the most pressing issue facing the country. Overall, the PNM leads 66-18 in that group, but trails the UNC 51-29 among those who are more concerned about other issues such as crime, the economy and corruption. The PNM's lead is also larger among women, who are more reliable voters than men. The PNM's margin is fairly even across age groups, but slightly larger among the oldest voters and first-time voters than among middle-aged voters where the PNM and
UNC are near-even. This suggests the PNM may decrease somewhat in the event of lower turnout among virus-conscious older voters or lower turnout among politically disengaged first-time voters.
However, the margins are so similar across these groups that any pathway for the UNC to close the gap may need to rely just as much on persuasion as on driving turnout. The PNM and UNC both retain their traditional bases of support. The PNM commands support in the high 70s among citizens of African descent and in the mid-80s among self-described traditional PNM voters. The UNC polls correspondingly in the high 70s among citizens of East Indian descent and in the mid-80s among self-described traditional UNC voters. The PNM's modest lead arises from their lead among the critical mixed-race voters by a margin 48 per cent to 23 per cent so far, a sizeable 22 per cent of that group is still undecided. Similarly, among self-described floating voters and traditional third-party voters, the PNM is leading the UNC 30 per cent to 26 per cent, with six per cent opting for smaller parties and 38 per cent still undecided. The ruling party enjoys a modest lead among employed persons and retirees, but is trailing the UNC among unemployed voters. Among the smaller parties, the PDP registers its support in Tobago. While the poll's sample size is too small to give a reliable estimate support for the PDP, the measurable support it did receive among Tobago voters in the national sample suggests a strong showing by the PDP is not out of the realm of possibility. Similarly, the sample size is too small to say much about the one per cent of voters who support the PDP, but any support it does have is more likely to be among East Indian and mixedrace voters in Central and South Trinidad.
-PART II tomorrow will focus on which issues are most important on the minds of the electorate, and what factors voters use to decide who to support.