Majority wants “early election,” but after March municipals
While a date has not been set, the general election, constitutionally due in or before February of 2013, is increasingly dominating the popular conversation.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has publicly stated that he intends to call the election before the end of this year, but not before the municipal elections due on March 7, 2012 in 2 cities and 7 towns.
Today, the results of a poll conducted by the team of Karim Berges, businessman and former United Democratic Party (UDP) campaign manager (he resigned almost immediately after the UDP’s victory in February of 2008) and Yasmine Andrews, who has conducted a number of recent polls for various organizations and produced polls prior to the 2006 municipal elections and 2008 general elections, which both accurately predicted UDP victories, were presented to the public.
Berges told the press today at a press conference at his business lounge, 48 Baymen Avenue, that he was not surprised at the ultimate result of the poll, conducted via telephone with 223 persons from around Belize between last Thursday and Saturday.
The list of potential respondents was obtained by what Berges says is called systematic random sampling.
The organizers, using the population statistics from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), ran a series of tests and formulas to distill the specific sample to be used, limited with a slight concentration on urban areas.
Then, the workers doing the actual calling selected numbers at random from the BTL telephone directory at specified intervals (The actual interval used was not given, but as an example, it would be every thirtieth, fiftieth, or hundredth number.)
Most of the respondents were registered voters.
Respondents were asked 12 questions concerning their preference for when the election should be called, who they would vote for, who they thought would win, and their perception of the Government’s performance to date and the Opposition’s chances.
According to the poll’s results, the number of persons who said they would vote for the UDP and those who were undecided, is the same: 73, or 32.7%. The PUP scored 67 votes, or 30%, with the third party, Vision Inspired by the People (VIP), running third at 2.7%, and independents scoring just 1.8%.
(The People’s National Party (PNP) did not appear in the poll, and those two parties have announced a coalition to contest the election as the Belize Unity Alliance (BUA)).
Asked who they thought would win, 95 respondents, or 42.6%, selected the UDP, with the PUP scoring 40.4%, or 90. The remaining 17% felt that the independents would win, despite having only a handful of candidates around the country.
How early should the general elections be called?
A majority of 61.4% agree that it should be called “early.”
But asked in another question whether it should be held on the same day as the municipals, or thereafter, two-thirds (67.6%) prefer to wait, as Prime Minister Dean Barrow has publicly indicated, until after the municipal elections are held on March 7, 2012.
73% of persons polled ruled out having the general and municipal elections on the same day – March 7.
With that settled, what will the voters be concerned with going to the polls, and what lies behind their apparent ambivalence?
The economy generally, and specifically, jobs and the cost of living, appears to be uppermost on the minds of potential voters. 28.3% of respondents named cost of living as their “most deciding factor” in the upcoming election, with jobs second at 24.2%, and corruption inching past “the economy” for third at 18.4%. Party loyalty got just 2 votes, for 0.9% of the total.
56% of respondents gave the current Dean Barrow administration an unfavorable rating, saying they were not satisfied, in comparison to 43% who said they were.
In another question, a majority (45.3%) believe that his administration is doing the same or worse than the second Said Musa administration; just 29.6% believe he is doing better. The other 25.1 per cent said they didn’t know.
The Government has not kept its manifesto promises, say 43.9% of respondents, and two thirds (67.3%) believe their quality of life has not improved.
But the PUP are not particularly liked either, with 67.7% saying they would not rather have the current Opposition governing than the current administration.
According to Berges, the high number of undecided voters is troubling, and a further poll to be conducted will have narrower questions to pinpoint the various anxieties of the electorate.
Looking at the data by districts, the UDP are only directly favored in two, Corozal and Stann Creek, with the largest number of undecided voters in Toledo (58%), Orange Walk (50%) and Cayo, with 47%.
Almost two weeks ago, the results of another poll designed to probe the state of mind of the Belizean electorate — commissioned by the publisher of the Independent newspaper, Glenn Tillett — were also publicly presented at a press conference, and the depiction of voters’ sentiments painted by this poll was notably different from the picture presented by Berges’ and Andrews’ study.
Between October 7 and 17, 2011, Greg Strimple, from Boise, Idaho in the United States, along with a small team of pollsters, interviewed 1008 respondents from across the country. Although the phrasing of some questions used in that poll has been criticized and the source of financing for the poll questioned, the results were presented in an extensive report, and made a UDP victory at the polls seem very unlikely.
That poll claims that former PUP Leader John Briceño had a 44% favorability rating, when he was no longer even Leader of the PUP, while Dean Barrow was viewed favourably by 32% of respondents.
Also, 5.6% more respondents said they would more likely vote for the PUP in an October election, even though at the time the survey was conducted, the party only had an Interim Leader.