Trinidadians tend to be suspicious of opinion polls, often for good reason. Whether it’s a matter of poorly designed surveys, or a tendency to tell pollsters what you think they want to hear, polls are often seen as unreliable. It has been especially true in this election cycle, where one polling organisation, NACTA has consistently characterised the election as a PNM – UNC race, while the others tend to call it as a PNM – COP race. Reuters, reporting on today’s election:
The reliability of polls was thrown into doubt by leading political figures ahead of Monday’s vote, however, amid warnings not to write off the well-oiled electoral machinery of the United National Congress, which draws most of its support from Trinidadians of Indian descent.
The true extent of support for the PNM and UNC is difficult to gauge at a time when supporters for both admit they have been hurt by corruption cases and discontent with politics as usual across the English-speaking Caribbean.
But more than one survey has showed the upstart Congress of the People, or COP, a multiracial party founded just a year ago by former central bank governor Winston Dookeran, posing a serious challenge to both the PNM and UNC.
While the problem may be polling, it may also be that there’s a lot of soft support. The UNC A has taken a “don’t split your vote” line, trying to get people to vote for it as the lesser evil, especially in the marginal seats (which is probably where COP has the best choice of picking up seats). If the UNC A can convince people of that, then COP is doomed.
Perception is reality.