It bears repeating that every poll is a snapshot of opinion at a particular moment in time. In the case of pre-election polling, much can change between a poll and election day due to game-changing events or strategy changes by the political interests involved.
The pre-election poll published exclusively in today’s Sunday Express from Solution By Simulation (SBS) sets up an interesting dynamic between the two main players in Trinidad—the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC). While it does not drill down into Tobago, the poll brings the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) into play against the PNM.
It is worth noting that the findings published today are based on national polling and not on constituency polling, on the basis of which elections are won. Nonetheless, it is a useful indicator of the direction of general public sentiment.
What the SBS survey indicates is that over the period July 24 to 31, the PNM led the UNC by five per cent which, given the margin of error of +/-4.5 per cent, may be described as modest, if not marginal. However, the noteworthy statistic is the finding that the PNM being ahead arises from its lead among mixed-race voters by a margin of 48 per cent to 23 per cent, with a “sizeable” 22 per cent still undecided.
Anyone familiar with the political history of this country would know “mixed race” voters are part of a key socio-political demographic which does not identify with the ethnic base of either the PNM or the UNC. It has been described, from time to time, as “the centre” and as “floating voters”, depending on whether or not they have a political vehicle.
Over the years, this group has developed as a significant political constituency with the power to force change. In the 1970s, they coalesced under the Tapia House Movement; in the 1980s, they expanded in number under the Organisation of National Reconstruction; in 1986, through Tapia and ONR, they assembled under the umbrella of the National Alliance for Reconstruction along with the United Labour Front (predecessor of the UNC) and Tobago’s Democratic Action Congress to end the PNM’s 30-year run in office.
After the NAR’s electoral decimation by the PNM in 1991, the UNC crafted alliances which gave it enough voter support to break through into non-traditional seats, including Pointe-a-Pierre, St Joseph, Ortoire/Mayaro and San Juan/Barataria, which produced the historic 17-17 tie with the PNM. The 36-seat election was eventually decided in favour of the UNC when the DAC brought its two Tobago seats into a UNC/DAC coalition.
It was not until 2010 that the constituency categorised as “mixed race” found a home under the umbrella of the People’s Partnership, which included the UNC, Congress of the People, Movement for Social Justice, National Joint Action Committee and the Tobago Organisation of the People which, together, propelled the PP into government.
The collapse of the PP sundered the constituency and, judging from the poll, it would appear that it is yet to find a home and is still weighing its choices. SBS’s finding that 22 per cent of the “mixed race” constituency is yet to make up their minds makes this group the dark horse in election 2020.