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Jan 24, 2008

SPEAR poll predicts U.D.P. victory

Story PictureBased on their past public opinion polls, the results were not exactly unexpected, and SPEAR’s latest research, conducted less than a month before the election, predicts victory for the opposition United Democratic Party. But, as News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports, the numbers don’t stop there.

Janelle Chanona
Between January eighteenth and the twenty-first SPEAR pollsters called four hundred and seventeen registered voters in all six districts, randomly selected from land lines listed in the phonebook. The participants were asked six direct questions:

Will you vote? How do you rate the government’s performance? How are you most likely to vote? What’s your motivation for voting? Has the quality of your life improved over the last ten years? And are you optimistic about the outcome of the February seventh elections?

According to SPEAR, it is estimated that eighty-seven point three percent of the electorate will vote. That’s close to the record turnout in 1998 when ninety-one percent of those eligible cast ballots.

Regarding Government performance, the P.U.P. scored a D or a “Poor” rating. But perhaps the most interesting question in the survey also had the most interesting answers. Twenty-five point seven percent of those polled said they will vote for the United Democratic Party and seventeen point five percent favoured the People’s United Party. But a whopping twenty-seven point one percent said they were undecided and twenty-five point two percent chose to keep their choice confidential.

“Issues” was the number one basis given for voting, with party loyalty a distant second with twenty point six percent. Money and gifts were a dead last with one point nine percent. Forty-six point eight percent felt their life had improved in the last decade while forty-seven point seven percent said it had not.

The last question is a bit of a riddle and its responses are just as puzzling. Sixty-eight point three percent were “optimistic” about the outcome of elections, sixteen point three percent were not and nine point seven couldn’t say.

Using those results, SPEAR then forecast three possible scenarios that could be derived from the numbers. The first puts the U.D.P. in the lead but suggests that the political parties would have to fight it out right down to the wire. The second and third also give the win to the U.D.P. by slightly different margins.

Henry Gordon, SPEAR
“What we are looking at, we are looking at a scientific poll, there are some mathematical formulas that are used and if we were to go into that just for public consumption we believe would not serve a useful purpose.”

Gus Perera, Director, SPEAR
“In a general sense basically what we have done is we have taken those people who have been in the confidential and the undecided bracket and we have modelled it using the cross analysis techniques, I can’t really break it down more than that, but it creates for you a curve where you would be able to place certain responses that are consistent with responses with some of the other questions and from that you would be able to make the projections no?”

While those projections are certain to upset the poll’s losers, SPEAR’s director Gus Perera is standing firmly behind the findings.

Gus Perera
“Where the P.U.P. is concerned from the very first poll that we did, they have been dismissive of polls, I think the first poll they referred to it as a bogus poll until the municipal elections proved it to be solid gold. And all the polls after that they dismissed also so we don’t really expect that it’s going to change at this time. We believe we are in a good place, we believe that it is a test of credibility now between our poll and the test of credibility of the P.U.P. leadership. And I think the results on elections day is going to really speak to that.”

“The only true test that we have had really because the only election that has occurred since the time we started to poll was the municipal elections and during that election, I think we predicted that the U.D.P. would have got sixty five percent of the votes and the P.U.P. would have got I think thirty-five percent. The eventual outcome was that the U.D.P. got sixty-two point something percent and the P.U.P. got thirty-four point five percent so that I think was very accurate no?”

But it is also accurate that twenty-five percent of the sponsorship of the SPEAR poll came from the Association of Concerned Belizeans, who recently launched an anti-Government advertising campaign.

Gus Perera
“They were not a part of the polling process, they were not involved with the design, they were not involved with the development and the methodology, that was totally a SPEAR work. They contributed as did many other people.”

And according to Perera, in the history of SPEAR’s six polls, this is the first time more than fifty percent of the participants have not given clear answers to all questions. In the case of the responses to “who would you likely vote for?”, SPEAR believes people were afraid to associate themselves with a particular party.

Gus Perera
“Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century we still have people who are fearful of victimisation, and that kind of thing.”

“If you have twenty-seven percent that are undecided and twenty five deh say it’s confidential, but seventy or sixty eight percent are optimistic about the results, it’s really telling you, that I don’t want to talk about how I wah vote but I know.”

Henry Gordon
“We are stating a reality in Belize; we do know that some people are afraid to express their opinions. We are not denying that but we’re not saying how many people are, what percentage the people are but some people just tell you, that they are undecided. That’s my business, that’s between me and my God, or whatever they want to say.”

And while SPEAR says it isn’t trying to influence the undecided, the organization says it does hope to change the way politicians think about their voters.

Gus Perera
“We are saying that one, we want si the picture, we want tek a snapshot fu see weh frame ah mind the people are in and two, bring that to the fore and I think what this is showing is that people want a higher level of politicking. People want to deal with the issues, the real issues, people want those issues to be put on the table and discussed.”

The four hundred and seventeen people polled represent approximately one in every three hundred sixty registered voters. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Even before the results were released, P.U.P. officials dismissed the poll results as meaningless, biased and partisan. Several did point out, however, that the methodology of using telephone customers tends to under represent rural voters who, it is claimed, tend to favour the Peoples’ United Party.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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