PNM Tobago Council chairman, Stanford Callender, said the party intends to use the findings of the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll to improve its campaign for the January 25 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.
NACTA has the PNM comfortably ahead of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in seven of the nine electoral districts it leads, noting a clean sweep of all 12 seats is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Two seats, the poll found, are too close to call.
Last THA election, the PNM won ten seats with the PDP claiming the other two.
Callender told Newsday on Sunday, "I am not surprised but a poll is a snapshot in time. My experience has always taught me, a day could be a long time in politics. While I note with some level of satisfaction the position the poll has placed us, I am not gonna take that for granted."
The poll found 59 per cent of respondents surveyed think the PNM will win, giving reasons such as: “it is better organised and has greater campaign resources than PDP,” and “The PNM is very active on the ground whereas there has not been much of a PDP presence in terms of campaign paraphernalia or activities.”
The poll was done to determine popular support for the parties as well as to obtain views on the issues affecting Tobagonians.
Callender added, "It provides some basic info and therefore in the areas where it is indicated we are behind, we are gonna put a strategy in place to make sure that is reversed and in the area where it says we are leading, I'm gonna widen the lead. Because in politics I am gonna take nothing for granted."
He noted the NACTA poll is in alignment with the party's own predictions.
"I am relatively comfortable with the polls because it is in keeping with our own canvassing to date and so forth, so I'm comforted by it."
Asked whether NACTA's accurate prediction of the Tobago landscape in last year's general election gave its THA poll more credence, Callender said, "To be honest with you, I have always had some respect for the NACTA poll, from years ago. I have always found them to be almost on target, not always right on target."
He said for the next two weeks the party will be reviewing its strategies and putting things in place for election day.
"We have been on the ground since we named our candidates and we are going to continue being on the ground. I think campaign and canvassing is about that personal contact. We have different strategies that we are using, we are just gonna review our strategies now we head to the final leg, to make sure things are down pat.
"Everything boils down to election day. With all the polls telling yuh, if yuh don't get yuh act together on election day. That's the day elections are won, not before."
PNM Tobago leader, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, in a WhatsApp response to Newsday said, "We are doing what we need to, to bring this home. We are ahead all the way."
Davidson-Celestine, the Secretary of Health, said the public is pleased with the governance of the PNM during the covid19 pandemic.
"We have a track record developing this island. Our performance speaks. We deliver. We are in the midst of a pandemic and the PNM’s track record, when it's comes to keeping this island safe, demonstrates we are the choice of Tobagonians. The public wants the stability and safety that PNM provides. The poll probably reflects what the people want and we intend to give them more. We are not just about the polls, we are about people."
Efforts to contact PDP's Farley Augustine for a response on Sunday were futile as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.
On candidates, the poll found incumbent Watson Duke is ahead in the Roxborough/Delaford seat he has represented for the past four years.
But the PNM’s Neil Beckles is putting up a stiff challenge.
The three independent candidates are not leading in any of the seats, the poll found.
It said former THA presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus, who filed to contest the Scarborough/Calder Hall seat as an independent candidate on January 4, has gained some traction.
“She has been mounting a house-to-house campaign.”
The PNM’s screening committee, headed by Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine, chose incumbent Marslyn Melville-Jack over Tsoiafatt-Angus during screening on October 26.
The poll said Davidson-Celestine is comfortably ahead in her Lambeau/Signal Hill seat. She is being challenged by the PDP’s Wayne Clarke.
NACTA also found there is an element of excitement among voters as they observe what they perceive as “infighting” in both the PNM and PDP camps between potential leaders for the Chief Secretary position.
Voters say Davidson-Celestine and Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis seem to be at loggerheads in the PNM camp, while in the PDP, Duke and one of his deputy leaders, Farley Augustine, are fighting over leadership.
Traditionally, the leader of a party usually becomes Chief Secretary once the party wins the election.
The poll also found that Augustine, who is seeking to retain the Speyside/Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi seat for a second term, is facing a stiff challenge from the PNM’s Rory Dillon.
It found the PNM’s Boxil Bailey and PDP’s Dr Faith B Yisrael are also locked in a close fight in the Belle Garden/Goodwood district.
Only 33 per cent of respondents said the PDP has a fighting chance to eke out a narrow victory, the poll said.
“But such an outcome seems very unlikely.”
The poll said 59 per cent picked the PNM and the remaining eight per cent of respondents did not offer an opinion.
It added issues relating to the cost of living, drug abuse, infrastructure, autonomy for Tobago, agriculture, the sea and airbridge, among other concerns, will influence how people vote.
(with reporting by COREY CONNELLY)