Polling the Pollster

By Raffique Shah
September 28, 2014

Raffique ShahI won’t challenge the results and projections of the Solutions by Simulation poll published in the Express last week. Nigel Henry’s company has established itself as being uncannily accurate in projecting the results of four elections in Trinidad and Tobago last year, the most startling being the 12-0 victory to the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the Tobago House of Assembly election.

Clearly, Henry’s methodology is sound, hence his accuracy.

However, I take issue with some of his assumptions which, I think, are flawed. His declaration that 11 seats that changed hands between the 2007 and 2010 general elections (PNM to the People’s Partnership) are now deemed “marginal”, defies logic.

If one had applied this template in the 1991 elections there would have been 23 marginal seats—which is preposterous.

Let me explain further. Between the United Labour Front (ULF) and the Democratic Action Congress (DAC), which merged with the ONR in 1986 to form the NAR, they held ten seats in 1981-1986 Parliament. The new “party of parties” therefore gained a whopping 23 seats in 1986, wresting from the PNM its heartlands (Laventille, Diego Martin, the entire East-West Corridor, and more).

The PNM barely held on to Laventille, PoS East and San Fernando East.

Now, the main reason why it would have been foolish to declare all the lost seats as being marginal is the 1986 elections were highly unusual, a rare occurrence in politics, hardly likely to be repeated in a generation. The PNM, having lost its founding leader Dr Eric Williams, also faced the first “oil crash”, when oil prices fell sharply from their 1974-1980 highs.

New leader and prime minister George Chambers had famously and ominously said to citizens after a big win in 1981, “Fete done, back to work!” The grim economic situation had begun to hurt people. It was a propitious moment for the divided opposition parties—if only they could unite, which they did.

So Karl Hudson-Phillips, whose ONR had shaken the PNM in its strongholds, joined with Basdeo Panday, who was by them the undisputed leader of the Indian constituency, and Tobago’s Ray Robinson, who was seen as an acceptable leader.

An unusual confluence of events and a dream union of the forces opposed to the PNM propelled 65 per cent of the electorate to vote, with 66 per cent of electors booting the PNM out of office, and, many felt, into oblivion.

But the same economic challenges that helped drive the PNM from power dogged the NAR in its five years in government. Additionally, internecine warfare that resulted in Panday withdrawing from the NAR, and a Cabinet characterised by its arrogance towards the population, saw the dream shatter well before the 1991 elections.

The PNM, led by Patrick Manning, easily won 21 (of 36) seats to return to power. While the PNM had lost the supremacy it once enjoyed, it had also recovered its base.

Henry’s basis of applying “marginal” status to the 23 seats that changed hands would have proved fatal in the 1991 elections.

The 2010 general elections were, in large measure, similar to those of 1986. While the economy was not in tatters (in spite of the global financial crisis), Patrick Manning and his Cabinet’s arrogance towards the populace had alienated hordes of voters, among them strong (but not diehard) members of the PNM.

More importantly, the coming together of the United National Congress (UNC) under new leadership, the Congress of the People (COP) that had proved its votes-value in 2007, plus labour and other strident independent voices, created an electric environment that brought 68 per cent of electors to the polling booths.

The results were predictable, although the margin of victory and the strong incursions into “PNM territory” were surprising. The Partnership sealed its strength with another decisive victory in the local government elections that followed.

But the speed with which the Partnership squandered this overwhelming superiority was alarming. The string of losses in four elections in 2013 signalled the demise of the Partnership .

Against this background, there is no rationale for Henry to assume that 11 constituencies snatched by the Partnership in 2010 will be marginal in 2015. Arima is as strong a PNM domain as one can find, and D’Abadie/O’Meara, La Horquetta/Talparo, Lopinot/Bon Air, San Fernando West, the two Tobago seats and Toco/Sangre Grande have all returned to base.

The results of the local government elections in 2013 underscored this, so I do not understand how and why Henry deemed them marginal.

There are, and have been for some time, three marginal constituencies in the UNC/COP/PNM configuration: Barataria/San Juan, St Joseph and Tunapuna.

In one way or other, certainly since the number of constituencies rose from 36 to 41 in 2007, but even before that, these three areas have determined which party wins power.

(To be concluded)

11 Responses to “Polling the Pollster”


  • The PNMite voter base is around 285,000, come hell or high water they will vote PNM. If they don’t like Rowley they will vote for the party. Now I must say in the past they have won with their voter base. The last election they loss only because the partnership was able to get 400,000 plus voters out. It must be noted in their areas they won by polling less than 10,000 votes in many of their seats. The boundaries were fixed in their favour and they have at least a 7 seat advantage because of it.

    The Partnership will lose some seats but not enough to lose elections. They have to run a positive campaign and talk about their achievements in the last 4-5 years. If they attack Rowley too often they will lose.

  • It is not without reason that people are expressing concerns over the results of the poll taken by Nigel Henry’s Solution by Simulation. What the results uncovered is exactly what the actual racial preferences are politically, and it can be taken ‘with a grain of salt’ that that is where it stands politically but to ‘accept’ the Prime Minister’s popularity without any reference to prove why she is ‘popular’ is a little bit like trying to solve a math problem where we are told that (a + b – c x d) = abcdef. Nigel came up ver short in his analysis why Kamla’s so called popularity is to be explained. If one’s popularity is to to be measured by how many times their names make the headlines, then I think most will agree with its findings. It can also be true that popularity may mean different things to different people, but, even in this scenario ‘popularity’ cannot mean ‘across the board’, it can only be limited those who fulfill that interpretation. Popularity is never associated without a rational interpretation, and when one is so designated there is seldom any reason to question it. Most public figures exhibit a character or characteristic attributes that are appealing or magnetized by an adoring public and the most famous case is that of Muhammad Ali, who thrilled the world with his rhetoric and antics, but he was also courageous and brave by taking a fight to the the U.S Supreme court, where he won with exulting grace and charisma. This is indisputable and his name is synonymous with courage and heroism.
    It is true when Kamla first became prime minister, there was reason for exultation and expectations but she has long debunked those expectations, not by other peoples’ actions but by her very own ‘missteps’ and quotations. To embark on a simple exercise, if we were to ask what has Kamla done as pm that there should be exultation for? what has she ever said in her address to the nation that is worth remembering? what are her famous quotes that we all remember to hold to our hearts? has she ever addressed the nation as it’s national leader and imparted words that spread comfort to her listeners? These are simple concerns which can be used to exact the term ‘popularity’ but she failed in all of these. The things she is most famous for is her missteps and negative sayings. On the case of Trinidad joining the CCJ, she said that she is worried that there is no Indian on the court. In addressing Caricom leaders, she told them ‘Trinidad is not an ATM’, she has said her governance will take into consideration “the people, the people, the people”, when in fact her governance, emphasized “SIS,SIS, SIS”. Speaking the Truth is hardly a quality that can be ascribed to her, in terms of her intellect in public discourse, there is hardly a moment which can be described as momentous. Her grading by national appointments is low, very low, AG – a disgrace, President – mediocre, Petrotrin – a failure, energy – a failure, her first crisis was exchanging a seasoned military/intelligence/security expert with a clerk. Her best appointment was the minister of health whom she later fired, appointments to run CAL – a failure, minister of sports – a failure, most current ministers – mediocre at best. We must in this context come back and asks Nigel Henry the question, why is Kamla popular again?

    • • PNMites are like their founder blind and deaf whenever another party in power. According to Kian “To embark on a simple exercise, if we were to ask what has Kamla done as pm that there should be exultation for?”
      Please Kian with your Standard 2 education read what was achieved under prime minister Kamla leadership. And ask yourself if you have achieved anything of value in this world except to release gas and write crap.

      Some of the PP achievements, note I said some.

      Settled 78 outstanding wage negotiations 75 which left by the PNM
      • Settled $20 billion CLICO Crisis
      • Turn around a recession economy from negative 3.5% to positive 1.7% growth
      • Completed Tobago hospital
      • Turn around the agriculture sector from negative to positive growth
      • Created the Children life fund
      • Reduced poverty by 7%
      • Created the Single Electronic Window for ease of doing business
      • Built the Couva Interchange
      • Converted Chancery Lane office complex into a teaching hospital
      • Replaced the Navet South Trunk Main which improved water supply to over 250,000 households
      • Paid $1.5 billion owed to contractors by the PNM
      • Completed the Aranguez Overpass
      • Constructed the St. Helena Delta Bridge connecting Kelly Village to Piarco
      • Completed the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway Extension
      • Constructed a Third Lane to Uriah Butler Highway
      • Rehabilitated the Tarouba Link Road.
      • Construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension from Golconda to Debe
      • Completion of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway/Uriah Butler Highway Interchange
      • Built 72 new schools
      • Built 8 new police stations in Trinidad
      • Provided 500 new vehicles to the Police Service with GPS
      • Created over 40 New Bus routes
      • Processed more than 1,000 Certificates of Comfort (COCs).
      • Commissioned 12 community centres at Gulf View, Marac, Waterloo, Union Claxton Bay, Malabar Phase IV, La Gloria, Hindustan, Bon Air West, Ste. Madeleine, Sisters’ Road, Second Caledonia, Duranta
      • Built over 30 Bridges
      • Ministry of Local Gov’t paved 1150 local roads in fiscal year 2012/13
      • FOREIGN direct investment increased by over 400% since 2010 from $3.5 billion to almost $16.1 billion.
      • Given out 75,000 Laptops to Form one Students
      • Reduced Inflation from 16% in 2010 to 4% in 2014
      • Reopened Marper Farm to boost food production
      • Motor Vehicle Authority to be completed by September
      • Technology centres in Diego Martin and Penal
      • Increasing Tobago’s 24/7 pipe water rate which will be at 100% by end of year
      •Cove Industrial Park opened
      • Creating a Tobago Development ministry
      • Roxborough gas station
      •Tobago UWI Open Campus
      • Magdalena resort upgraded to bring in tourists
      • ANR Robinson Airport opened 24/7 attracting more airlines
      • $150m Upgrade to ANR Robinson Airport terminal
      • Several gov’t departments given offices in Tobago so that Tobagonians do not have to travel to POS to access services
      • PTSC buses added to the national fleet; rural routes expanded
      • Two new police stations for Tobago
      • Blackrock fire station
      • $82m new Met. Office for Tobago
      • A marina is in the works for Tobago

      • Mamoo, I can help you with a few more, they paid public servants their wages every month, they paid pensions to senior citizens, they made sure
        the police and army got paid, they build box drains, they maintained traffic lights etc etc etc.
        For your standard Mamoo, I know that is great achievements and I commend you for letting us know that!
        I expect to see those things in the PP manifesto for the 2015 GE. I do commend you for being so vigilant. I am sure with those achievements we certainly will have a better society where performance and standards will be high. Congratulations!

      • Mamoo, I did not want your blog to go unanswered because to to so would be acquiescing your ignorance between governance and policy making. There is a good reason why in governance there is a permanent body of workers known as “public servants” whose responsibility it is to carry out policies, observe the constitution, make regulations, coordinate leglislations, operate within statutes and work within the boundaries of the administration of public policy. If those 46 “achievements” you stated above were accomplished by your UNC government, then WE KNOW FOR SURE there are problems with their governance. YOU know why? those functions which you articulated are the functions of public servants, not politicians, but to some extents you may have a point. The job of the “permanent secretary” is that of the Chief Administrative officer for his/her stated ministry. By right, he is NOT responsible to the minister. What he is responsible for is ensuring that the minister keep within the bounds of his ministry’s functions without violating any administrative policies. But, there are stories going around that ministers are in fact interring with promotions, appointments, racial makeup, recruitment within the ministry and other public service functions. If true, as Mamoo’s ascertain appears to confirm then we in fact have maladministration within the governance of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a serious flaw in governance and it goes against the grain of administrative justice. Let me explain what REAL policy making is: Patrick Manning was responsible for the expansion and exporting of natural gas fromTrinidad and Tobago into the United States and other countries. He negotiated agreements with African countries that would have further enhanced the energy sector here in Trinidad by even more than what we have today but you know what the “know nothing” UNC government came and lost it. What Patrick Manning has done can account for as much as 25% of the energy earnings of Trinidad and Tobago. If this country were to loose what Patrick Manning REALLY ACCOMPLISHED we would be twenty five percent poorer as a nation. Compare that to what Kamla has done: She submitted and ran five consecutive deficits in five years.
        That is to say she spent more than she earned in every one of her annual submission of how she intended to spend the people’s money. You can criticize facts all you want but don’t ever downplay REALITY, it stands out like a candle in the wind, and this is what you are trying to do with stating public servants duties as that of your ministers and prime minister’s. I will refrain from calling you names because that does not achieve much and me with my second standard education can and will continue to educate those who have to read the misleading information that you and others want people to believe as “performance”. The management of Petrotrin is rife with incompetence because it is loaded with people who are unqualified to carry out those duties, yet there are ads all over the country telling us about good performance. It is a disgrace when politicians deliberately LIE to achieve a desired result.
        Yours and other blogs are doing the same thing because it is your strategy to obscure the performance without showing any REAL accomplishments to show for your poor performance. It is a sin, a disgrace!

  • I wish to correct a statement in the above text, the words “preferences are politically”, are meant to be “preferences are racially”.

  • The undermentioned augments my contention that we do not have a national prime minister. We do have one who holds the title but you will never know it as evidenced by the meaning of her words. Whenever she makes public appearances, her statements never seem to encompass the spirit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago as a whole. She is at best sectarian in her delivery, uttering pronouns like “we”, “us” and “them” never giving the wholesomeness as the official messenger for all the people of this nation.
    http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2014-09-29/pm-ny-republic-day-dinner-tt-threshold-major-achievement

    • “As a people, this is another opportunity we have to ensure that, not even for the shortest moment, we allow ourselves to forget how much our nation has grown because of us, and indeed how much we have grown, as a people, because of Trinidad & Tobago.” Persad-Bissessar said where education thrived, social inclusion also flourished which resulted in communities becoming stronger and people more confident in their own country.”-P.M.

      “We” is an inclusive word it means all in the context of nationals. That is not being sectarian it is inclusive language. There I conclude my standard 3 explanation to you Kian.

      • Mamoo, that is the beauty of the English language. We can read the same text, yet come out of it with totally different meaning. You need not explain it to me, I understand context when it is applied, given location, audience, target and pseudonyms. Those who understand what I’m saying have gotten the message. Your interpretation suits you and those who chose to understand it your way. That is just how it should be, we are free to believe what we want to believe but I can assure when I detect cow dodo, it does not matter how well it is packaged, it still remains cow dodo.

  • Kian.

    You hit the nail “smack on” the head and drove it in with a single blow!
    From where I am sitting , I saw Mamoo leaving for school,but did not arrive for the class!

  • http://m.guardian.co.tt/news/2014-10-25/bloody-weekend

    As my late, extreamly wise, Tobago Granny ,would often say to yours truly, back in de day, “This place make me laugh so much,sometimes I just feel like crying!”
    When – heavens forbid- our historically maligned, hard working,dedicated,Police Officers,shoot a well known bandit, it’s called ‘an assassination,’ by a fast growing, criminal cuddling public,but should one bandit , blatantly murder another,the response is quite tame ,beyond reason.
    Then again ,maybe , frustrated/overwhelmed Trinis,might have resigned themselves to the fact that runaway criminality, or rather,wanton violence , conducted chiefly ,by semi educated ,hopeless , underclass folks,’ on the other,’ is now the order of the day , under this ultra progressive, Kamla led regime,si?
    Just wait until those ACP vehicles are added to the crime fighting arsenals.

    Thanks Professor Emeritus Dr. Selwyn Ryan, for bringing us up to speed, on the cause of the social malady.

    http://m.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-03-25/ryan-crime-report-soca-music-breeding-criminals

    Thanks , to ‘Her MadJessTrick Queen K ,’ and her PP government, for putting an authentic Griffy crime plan in place, based on your findings , and recommendations.

    http://looptt.com/2014/10/24/tt-among-highest-suicide-rates/

    Now, if only that other ‘eat ah fooder, former UWI Social Scientist expert,’in Dr Deosaran , can be cajoled, to do a similar suspect study, to explain away, why T&T, is up there with the big boys Guyana, and Suriname, when it comes to skyrocketing Suicide-primarily within certain , unmentionable enclaves -hmmmmm?
    Just hope if he does, he won’t make a mockery , of our intelligence, by pointing fingers at our beautiful , and melodious,’gyratingly enticing ,’Chutney Soca.
    We miss you Mama Verna St Rose! We know the reasons that were proffered, but why were you fired again?

    Ah tell you folks,and I for one ,get such sadistic pleasure, in continually exposing these culturally depraved, morally repugnant , self serving souls, for -in the words of TV Judge Judy-“peeing on our legs , and telling us it a raining. ”
    Stay tuned, as I attempt to up de ante!

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