The findings of two opinion polls conducted last week in Trinidad – one conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) and the other by Pollster Nigel Henry (SBS) – were published on the same day and showed similar findings regarding the approval ratings of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on the fourth anniversary of the current administration. The poll showed Rowley climbing in the approval ratings while Persad-Bissessar has made a turnaround and is resilient in her popularity. However, the findings of both polls show the ruling Peoples Partnership government struggling to retain its political support from May 2010 when it comprehensively defeated the then ruling PNM led by Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
Since 2010, the PNM has been rebuilding under Dr Rowley whose leadership is now widely endorsed by PNM supporters following his landslide victory in the party’s leadership contest a week ago; Rowley won 93% of the membership vote.
While Persad-Bissessar’s popularity suffered over the last few years as a result of several unforced errors, the PM’s popularity has been on the mend in recent months as a result of a positive response from the population of the tough actions she took to discipline errant ministers and chairs and CEOs of government corporations, as well as members of several boards. Still, the PM’s popularity was 25% higher than Dr Rowley’s in June 2010 and now she is marginally ahead (a statistical dead heat) suggesting a tough election battle lies ahead; elections are due in 15 months. Dr Rowley’s landslide victory at the PNM’s internal election, obtaining the largest number of votes by a political leader in a party election, sets up a royal battle between the two prime ministerial candidates.
The findings of the NACTA poll are obtained from interviews with 540 respondents (44% Indians, 36% Africans, 19% Mixed, and 1% Others) reflecting the demographics of the population. The Henry poll interviewed 700 people.
The opinion poll finds growing disenchantment in the performance of the government with voters losing confidence in the Peoples Partnership’s ability to rein in violent crime and the rising cost of living. Almost everyone (93%) views crime as the leading issue with the murder of Dana Seetahal uppermost in peoples’ minds.
The approval rating of the government is down to 38% with a disapproval index of 44% and 18% not offering a response. Recent scandals have hurt the rating of the government. Several ministers of the government and members of government boards are very unpopular hurting the government’s image and boosting the PNM’s chances at recapturing the government at the next election.
Persad-Bissessar’s approval rating for her performance as Prime Minister is 49% with a disapproval rating of 38% and 13% offering no opinion, giving her a net positive rating of 11%. Henry gave Persad-Bissessar 48 approval and 37 disapproval.
Dr Rowley’s performance as Opposition Leader is 47% with 39% disapproving and 14% saying they are not sure, producing a net rating of 8%. Henry gave Rowley 47% approval and 35% disapproval. Both polls have a margin of error of 4%.
The poll reveals that only a handful of ministers have won the confidence of the population in terms of performance: Vasanth Bharath (Trade) leads followed by Fazal Karim (Tertiary Ed) , Dr Roodal Moonilall (Housing), Dr Fuad Khan (Health), Dr Tim Gopeesingh (Education), Winston Dookeran (Foreign), Prakash Ramadhar (Legal), Suruj Rambachan (Infrastructure), Devant Maharaj (Agriculture), Errol McLeod (Labour), Clifton DeCoteau (Social Development), and Stephen Cadiz (Transport).