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DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Kamla's approval falls 16%, but if elections were called now...

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has become less popular in the past year, has lost some of the public's respect, and there is dissatisfaction with her Government's strategies.

These are the findings of a Market Facts and Opinions (MFO) survey commissioned by the Trinidad Express Newspapers.

The survey results also indicated the country was still unhappy about the Section 34 fiasco and disapproved of the performance of two top government ministers—Jack Warner and Anand Ramlogan.

But even with the sharp dip in her approval ratings, the survey findings projected that if general elections were called tomorrow, people would still vote for the Prime Minister and her People's Partnership Government.

Persad-Bissessar's approval ratings declined from 54 per cent in 2011 to 38 per cent in 2012.

Conversely, her disapproval ratings increased from 39 per cent in 2011 to 53 per cent in 2012.

The MFO survey results suggested that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Jack Warner were not serving the interests of the country as well as they could. Ramlogan's disapproval rating was at 64 per cent while Warner's was at 56 per cent.

People interviewed were most dissatisfied with the standard of health care in the country's hospitals (67 per cent), the handling of Section 34 and its repeal (63 per cent), the working relationship of the member parties of the People's Partnership (63 per cent), the physical condition of the country's schools (62 per cent) and the performance of Cabinet ministers (61 per cent). .

But should general elections be called, 53 per cent of people polled have indicated that they would vote along the same party lines they voted in May 2010.

However, this represents a decline from 2011 when 67 per cent of people polled said they would vote along the same party lines.

The survey was conducted over a two-week period by MFO from November 26 to December 8, 2012 to assess the Government's mid-term performance.

The first poll, from which comparisons were drawn, was conducted in April 2011 and was also commissioned by the Express.

To gather a sample of people, Trinidad and Tobago was divided into five regions- North West (24 per cent), North East (22 per cent), Central (22 per cent), South (26 per cent) and Tobago (six per cent).

The participants were further sub-divided in socioeconomic status (where middle income represented 62 per cent, low income 31 per cent and high income seven per cent), ethnicity (where African represented 43 per cent, East Indian 38 per cent and mixed/other 19 per cent).

The interviews were conducted by four teams comprised of four interviewers and one supervisor. In Trinidad, research was conducted door-to-door and in Tobago, interviews were conducted by telephone.

The sample margin of error was plus or minus four per cent.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:

The survey found dissatisfaction with the way Persad-Bissessar has been handling her job as Prime Minister as well as her ability to manage her Cabinet.

MFO's analysis observed that the positive expectancy of her earlier days has waned.

"In 2011, five in every ten persons interviewed approved her performance whereas in 2012 the proportion fell to four in every ten persons. Support for the Prime Minister lay among those respondents who are 55-64 years, from a low socioeconomic background, of East Indian descent and those living in central and south Trinidad," the MFO said.

The top three high points of her tenure as Prime Minister thus far (identified by the sample interviewed) were:

1. The removal of VAT on food items- ten per cent

2. Charity work for those in need (includes the Children's Life Fund)—nine per cent

3. Laptops for SEA pupils- eight per cent

"What is significant, however, is that one in every two persons were unable to pinpoint a single action which they considered to be the greatest achievement of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar," the MFO said.

When respondents were asked: "How much respect do you think the general public has for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar?" There was a 17 per cent increase in the number of people who believed the general public did not have respect for her. .

"The lack of respect has been attributed to her perceived inability to lead the country (31 per cent) and her show of disrespect for citizens (24 per cent)," MFO said.

The People's Partnership Government{

The MFO survey concluded that Government's efforts to work for the country have worsened.

The government also came in for sharp criticism for its management of the country's finances as 59 per cent of people surveyed were dissatisfied with the management of the country's coffers.

"There is a definitive divide in the demographic profile of those who assess the management of the country's finances favourably versus unfavourably.

Those who held a negative opinion tended to be between 25-35 years, of low and high socioeconomic status, living in North-West and North-East Trinidad and of African and Mixed/Other ethnic descent. On the other hand, those with an optimistic outlook were more likely between 45-64 years, living in central Trinidad and of East Indian descent," the MFO stated.

It observed that "there is a clear demographic divide" in those who assessed the Government favourably or unfavourably in its management of public funds.

"The respondents who tended to deem the Government's efforts positively were from a low socioeconomic status and/or 55-64 years old, and/or those of East Indian descent and/or living either in Central, South or Tobago. Those of an opposing view tended to be either African or Mixed/Other ethnic descent and/or living in north-west and east Trinidad," the MFO said.

"Interestingly, 56 per cent of the sample opined that the recent protest and marches

represent the people's true desire for better governance. A comparatively smaller proportion (38 per cent) are of the view that this civil action represents the political ambitions of a select few."

The most worrisome problem facing the country was crime at 62 per cent, unemployment at eight per cent and inflation at six per cent. (See Graph 3).

The crime problem was described by respondents as "extremely serious".

When asked: "How confident are you that the Government has a workable plan to deal with the crime situation," 44 per cent were not confident while 22 per cent were uncertain about the Government's ability to tackle the situation.

The approval for Cabinet ministers also declined in 2012 when compared to 2011.

"In 2011, 23 per cent of the sample was satisfied and conversely 55 per cent were dissatisfied with their performance. Thus it may be concluded in 2012, there is growing disapproval of the work of the Cabinet with 61 per cent of the sample indicating that they were dissatisfied with their performance. Notably, almost two of every ten persons interviewed did not wish to give an opinion of the Government's handling of Section 34 and its repeal," the MFO stated.

Confidence

Confidence in a number of public institutions and public figures has declined.

But confidence in the media, the banks and the trade unions has increased.

Confidence in the media increased from 26 per cent in 2011 to 39 per cent in 2012 while confidence in commercial banks increased from 31 per cent in 2011 to 37 per cent in 2012.

The trade union movement registered a two per cent growth from 21 per cent in 2011 to 23 per cent in 2012.

The significant dips in confidence were in:

1. Religious leaders—confidence declined from 34 per cent to 22 per cent

2. The education system, which declined from 46 per cent to 35 per cent

3. The Prime Minister from 31 per cent to 23 per cent

4. The police from 18 per cent to 11 per cent.

When it comes to the media, 63 per cent of people interviewed perceived that freedom of the media was under threat, 49 per cent agreed that current events were reported objectively and accurately and 73 per cent believed that they could acquire information from the media.

—More MFO survey results in tomorrow's Express.

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