''The icons of the past relied on political instinct. Now, Presidents can use scientific polls and focus groups.'' So wrote Dick Morris, former political strategist for Bill Clinton, in ‘The New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the Twenty-first Century’.


I recently asked my staff how they voted in the 1997 election. From a total of 83, 36 registered and 13 cast ballots. Only ten were males and the majority females under 30, so this is not a representative sample. But it reflects an alienated electorate. Why had so many not voted or even registered? About 12 cited religious reasons. But the general feeling was “They’re all the same so why bother?”


I also ran a focus group with six of those who had voted. (In a regular focus group a cross section of voters are paid a small sum and in return give honest opinions about current situations. The meeting is confidential, but is recorded and written up as grassroots feedback.)


Our unrepresentative group consisted of Paul, Mary, Liz, Sue, Ann, and Lyn. (Not their real names.) In 1997 Paul voted NDM, Mary JLP, Liz PNP, Sue PNP, Ann JLP, and Lyn PNP.



Paul – Don’t make much sense and are undecided about everything. Copy policies from other parties but can’t put them in place properly. -1

Mary – Not doing a good job. If they stayed with the IMF the economy might be better. -1

Liz – Only voted for them because my family is PNP. Michael Manley did a lot. 0

Ann – No vision, no plan. Don’t have the people at heart. Selfish, only think of themselves. -1

Sue – I always vote PNP because they have brought about most of the social changes in this country. But most of the changes we fought for are being eroded. 0

Lyn – I don’t understand much about politics. But people said if you don’t vote you will not get your I.D. So I voted for the man in power. 0



Paul – I didn’t vote for them last time because Seaga was too full of himself. But I will vote JLP next time because the PNP is going downhill. +1

Mary – I voted JLP last time but only to spite my partner. Next time I am not going to vote. Every time the JLP is doing well they start to quarrel with each other. -1

Liz – Don’t know anything about them. 0

Sue – JLP are for the middle class, not the man in the street. -1

Ann – If they get their act together I think they will be a better choice for the people. Mr. Shaw is brilliant. +1

Lyn – Don’t know anything about them. 0



Paul – I voted NDM last time because there was too much strife in the JLP and the PNP doesn’t care about people. But now the NDM is stagnant. I don’t know what they stand for except the presidential system. Why vote for a party who can’t win the election? -1

Mary –Not doing anything or coming anywhere. But I hear some members do community work. So to me they are a service club like Kiwanis. I don’t know what they stand for. They should go back to the JLP or PNP. -1

Liz – Should join up with another party. -1

Sue – Don’t know what they stand for. -1

Ann – Are they still in existence? Don’t hear a lot about them. -1

Lyn – Don’t know anything about them. 0


P.J. Patterson

Paul – Not bad, but doesn’t fit the role of Prime Minister. Not strong. Tries to please everyone and doesn’t please anyone. He is selling out everything – telephone, light, Navy Island. -1

Mary – Too soft. Says one thing and then backs down. -1

Liz – Agree with Paul. -1

Sue – Should stand up for what he believes. Half the time his decisions are only to stay popular. -1

Ann – Don’t know if I can trust him. Not sure if he knows what he is doing. -1

Lyn – Must stay in Jamaica more. Travels abroad too much. Not sure he is for poor people. Many things are happening that we don’t want like  nude weddings. He is selling out everything. -1


Edward Seaga

Paul – He was our best prime minister. But he is going senile. But he is still the best leader and I prefer him over Patterson. He should leave, but there is no one to replace him except David Panton. Panton is the main reason I’ll vote JLP. I like his youth and honesty. He is a future leader of the country.  +1

Mary – A one man band. Doesn’t use advice from other people. -1

Liz – Should give someone else a chance. -1

Ann – A smart man. Good leader. But needs to get his act together too. +1

Sue – It is time for him to go. No one has any confidence in his style of leadership. He reminds me of bucky master, not his colour but his style. He says this is how it must be, no questions asked. -1

Lyn – Too old. I saw him on television and he can hardly talk. Give someone younger a chance. If he comes to power things will get worse.



Bruce Golding

Paul – Stagnant like his party. Nice, not bad, but weak. Not Prime Minister material. Better than Patterson but worse than Seaga. -1

Mary – Doesn’t know what he’s all about. Indecisive. -1

Liz – Don’t hear much about him or the NDM. Only know he’s weak. -1

Sue – I don’t trust him. He might just be saying he has changed to gain power. He has to prove he has changed by telling us what he really stands for. -1

Ann – A smart person. I wish I could hear from him more firmly what his plans are. +1

Lyn – Don’t know who he is. 0


Portia Simpson

Paul – Not Prime Minister material. -1

Mary – She would be too tough. Ladies shouldn’t be Prime Ministers. When they are leaders they are hard like iron. -1

Liz – I want her to run the country. +1

Sue – Our last chance is to try a woman. +1

Ann – She wants to take over but doesn’t have what it takes. -1

Lyn – A good leader, I admire her. We need to try a lady to run the country. +1


Jamaican politics in general

Paul - All three parties are selfish. None of them care about Jamaica or the economy. -1

Mary - All parties are fighting for power and to fill their pockets. Politics is corrupting. No one in politics can be a Christian. -1

Liz – It is corrupt. -1

Sue – Pure corruption. They are fixing the road in our area and they gave an incompetent contractor the job. I am vexed to see how they are wasting my tax money. -1

Lyn – They only help their friends. -1

Ann – We need more honest people. -1


Adding one point for a positive answer and subtracting one point for a negative answer gives these scores : PNP –3, JLP 0, NDM –5, Patterson –6, Seaga –2, Golding –3, Portia 0, Jamaica –6. So our group reflects the conventional wisdom about Jamaican politics today. People are unhappy with the PNP. The JLP is not liked much, but to some it is the lesser of two evils. No one knows what the NDM stands for. Patterson is nice but weak, and some feel betrayed by him. Seaga is autocratic and old but to some still the best we have. Golding has made little impact. Portia is the people’s choice. And Jamaican politics means corruption.

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