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People’s National Movement San Juan/Barataria candidate Jason Williams chats with a constituent during a home refurbishment and grass cutting exercise along Bagatelle Road, San Juan, recently.

The fight for the marginal Barataria/San Juan seat between People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate Jason Williams and United National Congress (UNC) contender Saddam Hosein in Monday’s General Election is a dead heat.

This was the finding of a recent poll conducted by HHB and Associates Ltd led by pollster Louis Bertrand.

The poll, commissioned by Guardian Media, showed a two per cent difference between Williams and Hosein both of whom are first-time contenders—as they face a neck and neck finish in the August 10 election race.

The poll’s margin of error is six per cent.

Interviews were conducted with 200 registered voters in the constituency on categories ranging from major issues influencing the vote, the party best capable of solving problems, general progress of country and people, performance in the constituency (PNM) and (UNC), assessment of candidates, opinions of candidates, reasons for the ratings, voting intentions and voter switching patterns.

The poll is one of six marginal constituencies HHB and Associates focused on leading up to the election.

From 1995 to 2007, Dr Fuad Khan had served as UNC MP for the Barataria/San Juan seat but decided to step down this year.

In the 2007 General Election, PNM candidate Joseph Ross snatched the seat from the UNC. Three years later, Khan threw his hat back into the political ring, bringing home the constituency for the UNC once more. In 2015, Khan again contested the seat, capturing 8,722 votes to PNM’s Hafeez Ali, who netted 8,182 ballots. The results showed Khan edged out Ali by a narrow win which made the seat a marginal.

Barataria/San Juan has a voting population of over 25,000 and is considered crucial for both parties

As the election date draws closer, respondents were asked which party they would vote for. The poll showed that “38 per cent” of voters favoured the PNM while “36 per cent” pledged to support the UNC.

“As at the time of the poll, this constituency is too close to call,” the poll stated.

This means the seat is in a dead heat between both candidates.

At the time of the poll, 15 per cent of the electors were “unsure” of voting while five per cent refused to say which party they would support. The poll gave a “relatively high” (77 per cent) “likelihood of voting among electors.”

Regarding which candidate is well known in the constituency, Williams picked up an 80 per cent rating compared to Hosein’s 82 per cent.

In terms of “favourability”, Williams took the lead with 54 per cent to Hosein’s 41 per cent.

“More people are unsure about Hosein (45 per cent) than Williams (37 per cent),” the poll stated.

While both candidates are “more or less evenly with respect to why they are liked,” respondents gave Hosein a 29 per cent rating for being more caring and helping people to Williams’ 12 per cent.

“With respect to things disliked about the candidates, Williams’ main problem seems to be that he is perceived as not caring about people (29 per cent). Hosein’s main problem is that he is not seen often enough in the constituency (25 per cent) and that a change is needed in the constituency,” the poll stated.

Based on the performance in the constituency, the PNM captured a 34 per cent “good” rating to Hosein’s 31 per cent.

However, the poll stated that a significantly higher percentage of the constituents rated the PNM’s performance as “bad” (41 per cent) than the UNC (26 per cent).

Regarding which party was best capable of solving problems, the PNM was seen as most capable in tackling corruption, healthcare, COVID-19 and reopening of the economy.

The poll noted that there was no significant difference between both parties in performance in the categories of housing, education, prices/inflation, public transport, unemployment and road maintenance/repairs.

Comparing their lives now to five years ago, 39 per cent of the respondents reported they were personally worse off. Some 35 per cent claimed their personal situation had not changed with 26 per cent stating they are better off.

The poll also looked at voter switching patterns by comparing how respondents voted in the 2015 general election to how they intend to vote on August 10.

It was discovered that 73 per cent of those who voted for the PNM in 2015 intend to do so again in 2020. This compared with 68 per cent of those who voted for the UNC in 2015 who intend to do so again in Monday’s polls. It also found that four per cent of those who voted for the UNC in 2015 intend to switch to the PNM. In comparison, 11 per cent of electors who voted for the PNM in 2015 intend to switch to the UNC.

“Race, as a factor in voting intentions, continues to be important in this constituency,” the poll found.

Delving deeper into the voting intentions, the poll stated that 66 per cent of Afro-Trinis intend to vote for the PNM with only six per cent intending to vote for the UNC.

“On the other hand, while 59 of Indo-Trinis intend to vote for the UNC, nine per cent intend to vote for the PNM.”

Respondents identified unemployment, lack of youth training and development and poor distribution of electricity and water as their biggest concerns in the constituency.