Findings of the latest Markets Facts and Opinion poll, publication of which begins in today's Sunday Express, have come at a time when heightened contestation is driving interest in public affairs. Midway in the term of the People's Partnership, it is possible to discern political trends, on the basis of responses.
That the polling information is being released this close to the THA election likely excites curiosity about its findings and its potential impact on Tobago voting dispositions not already locked in place. Though Tobago figures in the research, the results do not necessarily predict outcomes in the January 21 THA vote.
One conclusive finding, however, suggests that 53 per cent of respondents would, if general elections were held today, vote the same way as they had done in 2010. This should not be unduly comforting to the People's Partnership whose image and standing have taken a beating in other aspects of this MFO polling data.
If Kamla Persad-Bissessar, T&T's first woman Prime Minister, had epitomised the broad favour enjoyed by the Partnership, her own declining stature in various respects should be disconcerting news for her Partnership. Only 38 per cent applaud her leadership, as opposed to 54 per cent who did so in 2011. Those disapproving of the Prime Minister's register at 53 per cent, as against 39 per cent in 2011.
The MFO finds people in a generally sceptical and critical mood toward national institutions. The media top the ratings for institutions in which the public retains confidence with 39 per cent. Closely following are the banks and the army (37 and 36 per cent respectively), and the education system at 35 per cent.
The Prime Minister's own rating in the confidence stakes stands at 23 per cent, comparable with that of the labour unions and religious leaders. It's hardly surprising that at the bottom of this confidence scale are the police, hospitals, and courts (11, 14 and 16 per cent respectively), with the official Opposition and the Opposition Leader doing better at 18 and 19 per cent.
Declining favour for the Partnership and the Prime Minister is yet then to exalt the opposition. But the trend confirms a downturn by comparison with 2011. As factors contributing to this trend, the poll finds the handling of the Section 34 matter to have incurred the dissatisfaction of 63 per cent of respondents, but the Highway reroute matter cited by only 43 per cent.
In various aspects, the poll finds a "demographic divide" among respondents identifiable by race and geography. In particular, those who kept their voting preferences unchanged from 2010 were identified as 55 and over, of low socioeconomic background, resident in central and south Trinidad, and Tobago, and "of East Indian descent".
The poll points up a deficiency in opinion research that cries out for correction by exercises additional to the annual MFO soundings.