November 24, 2004

Polls as relatively reliable indicators

A slightly warmed over corpse could pull in the same approval rating as the Premier did in the poll published in the Royal Gazette today.

The editorial is also correct in noting that politicians tend to embrace or dismiss poll results depending on the favourability of the results, so Alex Scott might try to dismiss this one. But my guess is he'll both dismiss it and invoke the defense that he previewed in his speech of Oct. 25, 2004 to the PLP Annual Delegates Conference:

"It was at this time last year that both our Poll numbers in surveys, and expectations among the Party faithful and many others in the community were high. If you regard polling numbers as a relatively reliable indicator, then this was very good news (the poll numbers) for the New PLP Government.

"However, this may not be the case tonight. We made many tough decisions this year and, probably, none impacted on our standing more than the decision to prepare the way for a broad public discussion on the issue of Independence."

'If you regard polling numbers as a relatively reliable indicator ...'. Puhlease. Don't be fooled with his attempt to dismiss or hedge on polling. The Premier is an avid poll watcher and hasn't hesitated to quote them often in interviews and speeches during his time as Premier when it suited him.

It was somewhat amusing then to see the Premier, in that same speech only 3 paragraphs later, invoke polling without the earlier qualifier:

"Polls show that a significant majority of Bermudians wish to be provided with information on the topic and BIC will be mandated to deliver that function."

Regardless, Government piggybacks political questions onto the quarterly Omnibus poll, so these results won't be a surprise. That's why it was interesting to see Scott Simmons (PLP PR Officer) so unprepared to provide his spin on the results in today's article.

Or maybe not. Remember that he savaged his own Premier with his astute but unhelpful interpretation of the last poll published in the Bermuda Sun. At least he learns from his mistakes, and no doubt headed to the Cabinet Office to be told what his interpretation is.

The implications of this poll are significant for a number of reasons:

Firstly, the Premier's approval rating has been in a precipitous decline since his unsustainably high levels after Fabian (80% was never going to last). But 37% job approval is embarrassing and quite remarkable. It took Jennifer Smith about 4 years to get there, but Scott managed it in one!

Secondly, it isn't a coincidence that the 'Social Agenda' hype appeared in mid summer after unfavourable poll results were published. The SA was no doubt an attempt to stop the free fall. As this poll was conducted from Nov. 13 - 17, after the Throne Speech and roll out of the Social Agenda, it's hard to know if his numbers were even lower and got a tiny bounce post SA, or if the public saw right through the sham and suffered even more.

RG is publishing more results on Friday so maybe that will be an element of it but I can only conclude that the Social Agenda was not received well, particularly after expectations were raised so high - that's the PLP's own fault.

Thirdly, there's little doubt that Alex Scott is under serious pressure internally and is struggling to hold his coalition together. These poll numbers will have done nothing to help. The PLP's lack of direction and lack of achievements are directly related to the fractured Cabinet assembled hastily to prevent a deadlock. The Premier's already weak position has just taken another hit and opened the door for those who covet the big prize. GP2 will be looking a lot closer in GP1's rear view mirror today.

I'll have more to say on this over the next few days as there is a lot to cover here, but at a high level Alex Scott and his party are in serious trouble - and it's entirely self-inflicted.

The Social Agenda clearly did nothing to stop the bleeding and it wouldn't be a surprise if the long knives* are again being sharpened.

* shortly after being installed as Premier Alex Scott traveled to London and said on the evening news that he reminded the UK Labour Party MPs that he wasn't the one with the 'long knife'.

Posted by Christian S. Dunleavy