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Jamaica's PM Portia Simpson Miller's popularity plummets

IN TROUBLE: Portia Simpson Miller

FOR THE first time in almost two decades of doing polls in Jamaica, pollster Bill Johnson has found that more Jamaicans have an unfavourable opinion of People's National Party (PNP) president Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller than those who view her in a favourable light.

In the latest Gleaner-commissioned Johnson poll, 43 per cent said they viewed the charismatic and usually well-loved veteran politician in an unfavourably.

"I have been polling here since 1996 and never has she been under water. Never has her unfavourability been higher than her favourability," Johnson told The Gleaner.

"If you look even before the last election, throughout 2011, she was viewed in a significantly favourable light. Even if you go back to 2007, August - 50 to 37 favourable, November - 41 to 39, and that was right before the election, and she did not dip below water even though her party lost," added Johnson.

He argued that the latest poll, which shows the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leading the PNP by 12 percentage points if an election were to be called now, is a direct reflection of the public's opinion of Simpson Miller, who also trails Opposition Leader Andrew Holness by 20 percentage points as the person who would do the better job as prime minister at this time.

"As Portia Simpson Miller goes, so does the PNP, and unless her favourability turns around, and [the PNP] can turn around, the party will be in trouble. She has been a sort of imperial prime minister, and she has to get back among the people for this to turn around," said Johnson in reference to the politician, who has been dubbed 'Mama P' and 'Sista P' by even those opposed to the PNP.

THE OPPOSITION: Andrew Holness

Johnson further noted that despite a fall in her favourability rating, the poll found that 42 per cent of Jamaicans remained glad that Simpson Miller was elected prime minister just over two and a half years ago, while only 39 per cent said they wished someone else had been elected. Nineteen per cent of respondents said they did not know.

In the meantime, despite strong criticism within his party and from some members of the public, Holness has improved his favourability rating in the latest poll, which was conducted from September 5 to 7 and from 13 to 14, with a sampling size of 1,208 and a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

Johnson's figures show that 53 per cent of Jamaicans give a favourable rating for the man dubbed 'Prince Andrew', while 26 per cent view him unfavourably, and 21 per cent are not sure what to make of the man who was thrust into the leadership of the JLP in the aftermath of the sudden resignation of Bruce Golding in 2011.

Holness went into that year's election with a 47 per cent favourability rating, while 31 per cent of Jamaicans had an unfavourable opinion of the man who had yet to hold any position in the officer corps of the party.

Since then, Holness has survived an attempted coup by the popular Audley Shaw and has sought to tweak his image by being more forceful in his public pronouncements.

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