by Shawn Cumberbatch
Job number one for the political party elected to form the next Government will be solving the high cost of living.
The majority of Barbadian voters polled this week by CADRES identified this as their main area of concern, and they also want the incoming administration to fix the country’s persistent unemployment problem and the overall economy.
Almost half of the electorate questioned in the survey commissioned by Barbados TODAY also think that Barbados is on the “wrong track”.
The have also given Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s Government a failing grade for its handling of the Alexandra School’s problems, CLICO, and the Al Barrack affair.
This latest polling data, which is now in hand, has prompted pollster Peter Wickham to identify economic matters as arguably the single largest issue that will influence the outcome of the imminent general election.
Without being prompted, 38 per cent of 1,080 respondents in each of the 30 constituencies told interviewers that the cost of living was their major concern, while 22 per cent were most concerned about unemployment and 14 per cent about the economy.
“It is therefore striking that cumulatively 74 per cent or virtually three quarters of Barbadians are preoccupied with issues of an economic nature and this speaks volumes about the extent to which the economic situation locally and indeed globally is influencing political outlooks here,” concluded in his analysis.
“It should also be noted that this general preoccupation is elevated over previous CADRES polls, which implies that we are now even more preoccupied with these issues than we were before.”
The political scientist told Barbados TODAY the poll “clearly demonstrates” that Barbadians will be “voting with their pocket more than anything else and in the context of the global political environment that we are it is perhaps not a good time”.
“All of the issues that are being presented are economic, because if you add the cost of living to housing and unemployment it tells us that people’s political minds are dominated by the question of their economic situation,” he noted.
“I would think that a good campaign focus would be a solutions focus, a campaign that focusses on solutions to those issues. I think if a government or if an aspirant can present believable concrete solutions to those issues … they will have a very good chance. I think that really is key to the election campaign,” he added.
Concerns about the cost of living, unemployment and the economy were followed by leadership (eight per cent), crime (five per cent), youth concerns (four per cent), housing (three per cent), social services (two per cent), corruption (two per cent), roads and other infrastructure (two per cent), and the environment (0.2 per cent).
The CADRES poll also found the Alexandra, CLICO, and Al Barrack issues as three which Barbadians thought were not being adequately resolved. They were marked out of 10.
“Barbadians were least impressed with the handling of the CLICO issue and slightly less concerned about the handling of the Al Barrack issue. In both of these instances, respondents gave Government a score in the vicinity of three, while the performance regarding Alexandra was slightly better at 4.1, but was still not a passing grade,” Wickham’s analysis stated.
“Naturally the party supporters were more or less flattering of the Government based on their party support inclination, but the ‘Uncertain Voters’ were generally less impressed with Government. Although Government did not score a passing grade with regard to any of these major issues, it did receive a ‘pass’ when the focus was shifted to the overall national assessment.
“In this regard, Government was awarded a five, while the Opposition was awarded a ‘5.2’. This comparative suggests that Government might be performing better than expected in some other area of activity that was not captured in the survey.
The conservative nature of both scores is also reflective of the fact that Barbadians are really not overwhelmed with either the Government or Opposition, but would prefer the Opposition if forced to choose,” he added.
In terms of Alexandra, 51 per cent of Barbadians said “no” when asked if they were happy with Government’s solution to the this matter, while an even larger 70 per cent said “no” when asked if the thought the issue “is now settled”.
Wickham also said most Barbadians believed the country was on the wrong track.
“Close to half of those surveyed (48 per cent) believed that we were on the wrong track, while a further 26 per cent were either unsure or unwilling to answer the question. Although one-quarter or 26 per cent believed that we were on the right track, the fact that cumulatively 74 per cent of Barbadians were not of this opinion implies that the perception of our political direction currently is largely negative,” he pointed out.