Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stop Debate

Exclusive MFO poll on Constitutional Reform:


Mark Fraser

Two days before the Constitution (Amendment) Bill goes to the Senate, a Moods survey conducted by the Market, Facts & Opinions (MFO) has shown that 85 per cent of the people interviewed would like the Government to halt the debate process to allow for more consultation.

The poll was an independent public opinion survey conducted among 459 respondents by MFO with a plus-or-minus five per cent margin of error.

Of those actually aware of the controversial bill, 54 per cent of the people polled would like more information on the proposed legislation, the poll found.

And 82 per cent would like that information before it is voted on by the Senate on Tuesday.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was brought to Parliament by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. On August 12, the bill was passed in the Lower House—23 members voted for the bill, 14 against, and there was one abstention. Congress of the People members of Parliament Winston Dookeran and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan voted against the bill, and COP MP Rodger Samuel abstained when called on to vote. Persad-Bissessar broke the tradition of collective responsibility and allowed Government members to vote according to conscience.

The bill contains provisions for a two-term limit for a Prime Minister, the right to recall MPs and a second ballot run-off.

Even after it was passed in the Lower House, the Bill was delayed for two weeks before it hit the Senate to allow further debate. 

Interestingly, the survey revealed that people’s optimism about the country is improving. 

It shot up from 20 per cent in April 2013 to 28 per cent in 2014.

 And generally, people are more comfortable and relaxed about the state of the country. 

Of those polled, 12 per cent recorded that state in April 2010 and improved to 15 per cent in April 2013 to 16 per cent in August 2014.

Following are the full results of the poll:   

1. Are you aware of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill  being presented in the Senate next week?

Although the majority of the sample indicated that they were aware of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, a notable proportion (23 per cent) admitted to being unaware of the high-profile bill.

Analysis by the demographic variables showed that the younger the respondent the more likely they were to claim to be unaware. 50 per cent of the respondents under the age of 24 years were not aware compared to only 16 per cent of the over 50-year-olds.

Respondents in the sister isle were the most likely to be aware of the Bill. Only 14 per cent of this sub-sample noted that they were unaware.

2. Of those who are AWARE of the Bill:  Given all that you have heard, read or seen,  do you have enough information to come to a firm  opinion on the Bill, or would you like more information,  or do you not understand what the Bill is all about?

Respondents were more likely to opine that they would like more information (54 per cent). Further, 20 per cent of the sample admitted that even though they were aware of the proceedings, they lacked a basic understanding.

In our analysis, the female respondents were more likely than their male counterparts to determine that they need more information. (Female 60 per cent versus Male 50 per cent).

3. Of those who have ENOUGH information on the Bill - How would you describe your position on the Bill?

Among those who noted that they had sufficient information about the Bill, approximately one in two were not in support.

A deeper dive into the opposing camps—those in support and those against—showed clearly-defined demographic profiles. Those in support of the Bill tended to be of East Indian ethnic descent. Three quarters of these respondents vocalized their support while 6% of respondents of African ethnic descent and 21% of those respondents of mixed ethnic heritage believed so.

Ethnicity was not the only predictor of a respondent’s position on the Bill. The divide was also replicated on geographic grounds. Half of the respondents who lived in Central and South Trinidad were of the view that the Bill ought to be passed compared to a mere quarter of those in the East-West Corridor.

Consistent with their desire for more information, women were more likely than men to indicate their resistance to the passing of the Bill.

Analysis of the non-supporting group unearth an interesting dynamic. These persons were also more likely to express the view that they were weary of the political situation in the country and may indeed be part of the oft-discussed NOTA (None Of The Above) group. This disenchantment was further corroborated by the decline in the proportion of respondents who indicated their likelihood to vote in an upcoming election. Compared to actual voter behaviour in the last General Elections, there was a ten-point decline in the proportion of likely voters.

4. Of those who are NOT aware/do NOT have ENOUGH information/do NOT understand what it is all about: How important is it for you to get more information on the Bill before it is voted on by the Senate?

Eight in every ten respondents (82 per cent) expressed the view that it was either very or somewhat important to receive more information about the Bill before it was voted upon in the Upper House.

Consistently, female respondents were the most highly-motivated group needing to receive information about the Bill. Even though the respondents of East Indian ethnic descent were more likely to be in support of the Bill, they also attributed importance to more information-sharing about the proposed amendments (50 per cent).

5. Do you believe that the process  should be stopped to allow consultation and more information sharing?

The general consensus among all respondents is that the process should be stopped to allow consultation and more information-sharing. 85 per cent of the total sample expressed this view.

Significantly 92 per cent of the younger respondents (18 – 24 year olds) were the most likely to indicate this position. 92 per cent of those living in West Trinidad also held this position.

In fact an analysis of the demographic group most likely to articulate their support showed that 69 per cent of the respondents of East Indian ethnic descent believed that the process ought to be stopped.

6. What’s your mood? 

The unsolicited comments of respondents relative to this question demonstrated a sense of resilience and faith in the country’s ability to come back from this situation.

Research Methodology

Four hundred and fifty nine telephone interviews were conducted between August 18th— 21st. The sample was selected randomly using directory listed landline telephone numbers and randomly generated mobile numbers. The sample represents the national distribution of gender, ethnicity and location (which includes Tobago).

Male 51%

Female 49%

18 – 24 years 16%

25 – 34 years 23%

35 – 44 years 18%

45 – 54 years 19%

55 years 27%

African 35%

East Indian 34%

Mixed/Other 31%

West 19%

East 27%

Central 20%

South 29%

Tobago 5%