General public perception is that the  Jamaica Labour Party’s  (JLP) Daryl Vaz is a strong candidate in the West Portland by election resulting from the dual citizenship debacle and is certain to win the seat. This perception is a fallacy, based on ‘spin’ not fact.

Since the general election of September 2007, the former member of parliament has been carefully positioned. He has continued to maintain a prominent national profile, an image that has been carefully crafted, cultivated and nurtured.

What are the facts about the former MP’s standings in the constituency of West Portland?

Polling data, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) empirical findings, analysis and ‘soundings’ on the ground in the constituency indicate that Daryl Vaz is not as popular as the JLP has made him out to be.

FACT: The constituency is in a statistical dead heat.

The party commissioned Market Research Limited to conduct a poll in West Portland. The polls are also popularly branded as Don Anderson polls. It is important to note that Don Anderson has emerged as the leading, most trusted and credible pollster in Jamaica.

The objective data signals the PNP’s positive standing in the West Portland by-election.

The poll was conducted and completed in February 2009 and used a sample size of 451. The margin of error is 4 per cent. The findings represent a sample summary of the poll. Most of the charts are self-explanatory.

Chart 1 demonstrates that by a margin of 21 per cent, the majority of respondents (49 per cent) believe the country is going in the wrong direction.

It is clear that there has been a shift away from the JLP since the last election. Many people who voted and supported the JLP in the 2007 general election are now disappointed and ‘turned-off’ by failed the promises of the JLP government.

Chart 1
Chart 1

Chart 2 shows that 45 per cent of the respondents believe the PNP would do the best job of running the country. This chart should be read in conjunction with the first chart. Again there is a shift away from the JLP after being in office for only 18 months.

Chart 2
Chart 2

Chart 3 demonstrates that both parties are in a statistical dead heat.

It is important to place this chart in context. The JLP Government has poured an unprecedented amount of government resources in West Portland over the last 18 months to solidify Vaz’s candidacy. As much as $300 million of government resources have been spent in the constituency over a short period of time, through various projects. Given this level of expenditure, one would expect the JLP to be way ahead of the PNP.

The PNP enjoys very strong support within the constituency. The spend by the JLP administration has not translated into voter support. The figures also continue to reflect the trend towards general disaffection with the JLP administration, based on its consistently poor performance.

Chart 3
Chart 3

Chart 4 is, perhaps, the most significant. The JLP’s main communication message for this by-election campaign is to highlight the ‘performance’ of Daryl Vaz over the last 18 months as Member of Parliament.

Vaz has cultivated a national perception of continuing to work in the constituency through his high media profile. The chart below demonstrates that the constituents of West Portland do not share this view. A total of 32 per cent of respondents believe he is doing a bad job. An astonishing 47 per cent say they don’t know and only 21 per cent believe he is doing a good job.

Chart 4
Chart 4

Conclusions:

  • The data is a clear indication of the PNP’s strong support in the constituency of West Portland.
  • The data destroys the perception of the invincibility of Daryl Vaz.
  • The data indicates that Vaz’s popularity in the constituency is manufactured and manipulated. Vaz’s team has used media to godfather him into a place of perceived strength.
  • The data indicates that the basis of the former MP’s popularity is not real contact with the people of West Portland, but is instead through external communication and resource strength.
  • The JLP’s campaign, based on the performance of Vaz as MP over the last 18 months is a fallacy.
  • The constituents of West Portland do not view him as a performer.
  • The election is a wide-open contest.
  • The PNP’s organisation is fully mobilised and is confident of victory on March 23.

Julian J. Robinson, is a PNP vice-president and chairman of the its South East St. Andrew constituency