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PNM Toco/ Sangre Grande candidate Roger Monroe, center, with supporters during a walkabout in Valencia.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

On the eve of Monday’s General Election, People’s National Movement (PNM) Toco/Sangre Grande candidate Roger Monroe is out front against United National Congress (UNC) contender Nabila Greene in the battle for the highly-contested seat.

The findings are contained in a recent poll conducted by HHB and Associates Ltd poll led by pollster Louis Bertrand.

The poll, commissioned by Guardian Media, showed Munroe was ahead of Greene by 13 per cent.

Toco/Sangre Grande was one of six marginal constituencies undertaken by the firm leading up to the August 10 general election.

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

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

During the election campaign, both candidates have been embroiled in controversy.

Three weeks ago, a video surfaced on social media purporting to be Greene lying on a bed being showered with money by a male whose face was not seen. But initially, Greene, in an interview with Guardian Media during a walkabout in Sangre Grande, said if the person in the video turned out to be her, she saw nothing wrong with the clip. The following day, however, Greene took to social media denying she was the person in the video.

Recently, TTPS Fraud Squad detectives reopened their investigation into allegations that Monroe allegedly used an expired power of attorney to withdraw money from his grandfather Percy Thomas’ account two days after he (Thomas) died on February 7, 2015. While Monroe admitted he made a mistake in the matter, he insisted his hands are clean.

This seat along the northeastern region of Trinidad has been known as a PNM stronghold for decades.

In 2002, the constituency, which initially carried the name Toco/Manzanilla, was won by PNM candidate Roger Boynes.

Five years later, PNM’s Indra Sinanan Ojah-Maharaj emerged victorious over UNC’s rival Keshore Satram.

The UNC finally took control of the seat in 2010 when candidate Rupert Griffith captured 9,325 votes to PNM’s Eric “Pink Panther” Taylor, who netted 8,625 ballots.

In 2015, the seat went back into the PNM’s hands with Glenda Jennings-Smith receiving 12,005 votes to the 8,101 electors who supported UNC’s candidate Brent Sancho.

The region has a voting population of over 30,000 and is regarded as a crucial seat for both parties at the polls.

Respondents were asked which party they would vote for. The poll showed that “32 per cent” reported the PNM to the UNC’s “19 per cent.”

At the time of the poll, “24 per cent” were undecided, “11 per cent” refused to say which party they would support and “13 per cent” stated they would refrain from voting.

The poll gave a 67 per cent “relatively high” likelihood of voting among electors.

In terms of “favourability”, Monroe received a 45 per cent rating to Greene’s 32 per cent. Also, more respondents were unsure about Greene (60 per cent) when compared to Monroe’s (48 per cent).

However, a significantly higher percentage of electors (40 per cent) rated Monroe as “caring about people than his UNC counterpart (29 per cent)”, the poll stated.

Voters felt both candidates were “tied” with respect to “doing a good job.”

On things disliked about the candidates, respondents stated “Monroe’s main problems seem to be that he is perceived as not being seen often enough in the constituency (39 per cent)”. Electors felt that Greene on the other hand “is not doing a good job (36 per cent).”

Regarding which candidate is more popular, the survey found that “Monroe is more well-known (76 per cent) in the constituency than Greene (67 per cent).”

Looking at the performance of both parties, respondents gave the PNM a 47 per cent “good” rating compared to the UNC’s 20 per cent. However, 29 per cent felt the PNM had done a “bad” job to the UNC’s 34 per cent.

Comparing their lives now to 2015, 32 per cent of voters reported they were personally worse off. Some 37 per cent meanwhile claimed that their personal situation had not changed, with 29 per cent saying they were better off.

Delving deeper into the category “voting intentions”, the survey found that race continues to be important in this constituency.

“The major difference relates to those classified as mixed/other where 42 per cent intend to vote for the PNM as compared with the 15 per cent who intend to vote for the UNC. Interestingly, the Afro/Indo differences are less significant.

For example, (34 per cent) of Afro-Trinis intend to vote for the PNM with 16 per cent intending to vote for the UNC,” the survey stated.

The poll also discovered that while 33 per cent of Indo-Trinis intend to vote for the UNC,12 per cent intend to vote for the PNM.

Comparing how respondents voted in the 2015 general election to how they intend to vote on Monday, it showed that 68 per cent of those who voted for the PNM five years ago intend to do so again in 2020. This compares with the 55 per cent of those who voted for the UNC in 2015 intending to do so in this election.

“Significantly, 41 per cent of past UNC voters are undecided about who they will vote for in 2020. This compares with 16 per cent of past PNM voters who are undecided.”

The three most important issues respondents stated are likely to influence which party they vote for are unemployment (98 per cent), health care (97 per cent) and COVID-19 (97 per cent).

As to which party has been best capable of solving problems, the PNM was seen as most capable in dealing with health care, housing, public transport, education and road repairs, which received ratings upward of 40 per cent.

Poll’s methodology

The polling divisions (PDs) were grouped by loyalty to the UNC/PNM.

Loyal PDs were identified as those in which the winning party had a difference from the loser of 15 per cent or greater.

All other PDs were deemed to be “marginal.”

This allowed HHB and Associates to select smaller samples from “loyal” polling divisions and larger samples from “marginal” divisions.

The demographic characteristics of the sample with respect to age, gender, race and religion reflect the pollster’s estimate of the characteristics of the constituency as a whole.