THE December 6 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election is too close to call, according to a North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll.
The survey, which was revealed on Sunday, showed the incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM) slightly ahead of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).
However, NACTA said the outcome of the election is unpredictable.
NACTA was heavily criticised earlier this year after its poll of the January 25 election had the PNM leading in nine electoral districts, and comfortably ahead in seven of them. It said two seats were too close to call, but a clean sweep of all 12 seats was not beyond the realm of possibilities. The election ended in an unprecedented six-six tie between the PNM and PDP.
NACTA’s latest poll said “either party can win a majority of the seats of the 15-member assembly.”
It gave the independents no chance of winning a seat, and failed to mention the Innovative Democratic Alliance led by former PNM member Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus.
Unlike January, this election will feature 15 seats after the electoral boundaries were adjusted to prevent another deadlock.
The latest survey interviewed “dozens of voters in each constituency.”
The main issues determining how people vote are: crime, roads, health and covid, the domestic airbridge, transportation costs of goods, agricultural neglect, drugs, good governance, among others.
The poll said Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis has a job performance approval rating of 54 per cent to PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine’s 48 per cent. Dennis is also the most popular of all the candidates seeking a seat with the highest voter opinion support of 56 per cent from Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant with some five per cent voters still undecided.
NACTA said the PNM has a slight lead in popular support that is a statistical tie.
Based on the trends of the findings, with less than a week to go before voting, it said neither party has solid leads in eight seats to win control of the house. Six closely-fought seats will determine the outcome of the THA.
The poll showed PNM holding strong leads in Bagatelle/Bacolet, Buccoo/Mt Pleasant, Darrel Spring/Whim, Plymouth/Black Rock, and Signal Hill/Patience Hill. The PNM also has a comfortable lead in Scarborough/Mt Grace but within the poll’s margin of error.
The PDP has strong leads in Belle Gardens/Glamorgan, Bethel/New Grange, Parlatuvier/L’anse Fourmi/Speyside, and Roxborough/Argyle. The PDP also has a comfortable lead in Bethesda/Les Coteau but within the poll’s margin of error. This makes it a 5-4 or 6-5 PNM lead. The other four seats – Bon Accord/Crown Point, Lambeau/Lowlands, Mason Hall/Moriah, Mt St George/Goodwood – are neck and neck and can go either way.
NACTA said the winner would be decided based on whichever party has the most effective election day machinery to mobilise supporters to come out.
It said the PNM enjoys an advantage of incumbency and resources.
Augustine: NACTA poll means PDP in front
Responding to the NACTA poll on Sunday, Augustine said he placed little stock in it, but “if NACTA in January predicted a colossal defeat for PDP and we ended up with a six-six tie, then NACTA predicting an election that is too close to call means that PDP may very well be way in front.”
The Parlatuvier/L’anse Fourmi/Speyside candidate added, “There is only one poll I am concerned about and that is on December 6.”
He said NACTA is again unable to detect the winds of change sweeping across Tobago.
“As was the case in the last election, we understood what was happening on the ground – NACTA’s poll could not, so it is of little concern to us.”
He said PDP’s strategy heading into the final week of campaigning is to stay on the ground canvassing the districts.
“We are getting extremely positive response from people and Tobagonians are ready to change.”
Asked about the four electoral districts which the NACTA poll identified as neck and neck, Augustine said, “Our ground work shows that we are winning those four areas.”
Dennis: PNM relying
on facts, not polls
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis was also unmoved by NACTA’s prediction when contacted.
He said, “Polls are only an estimation – somebody’s opinion. Of course it’s based on some evidence on what people are saying, but we’re not gonna rely on any poll.
“We are going to do what we have been doing for the past couple months, bringing the facts to the people, speaking intelligently of our plans and our achievements, and basically convincing people that the PNM remains the best option to take the island forward. That is the focus of this campaign.”
Dennis said the PNM will continue to “campaign every vigorously and very honourably, bringing truth and facts to the people of Tobago.”
Asked whether the PNM will focus extra attention on the four districts deemed a dead heat by NACTA, Dennis said, “The campaign leadership will be best placed to speak on that...but I am very confident the people of Tobago will take no chance and vote for the protection of our future,”
Dennis declined comment when asked if he was surprised that the poll identified him as the most popular candidate in the election.
PNM Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine was unavailable for comment as calls to her cellphone went unanswered.