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Political polling

Craig Cannonier and Michael Dunkley shake hands after being announced the leader and deputy leader respectively of the One Bermuda Alliance earlier this month. A poll has the OBA leading the Progressive Labour Party (Photo by Mark Tatem)

One Bermuda Alliance leaders will no doubt be jubilant about poll results published today in The Royal Gazette which show that the new party leads the governing Progressive Labour Party when it comes to people’s voting intentions.This is the first time an Opposition party has led the PLP since before the 2007 general election and provides early affirmation to the founders of the OBA that bringing together United Bermuda Party MPs and One Bermuda Alliance MPs was the right decision.Still, any enthusiasm should be tempered. First, it is risky to read too many things into one poll result, and this poll was taken directly after the OBA conference which saw Craig Cannonier elected as leader. That gave the OBA, for whom 38 percent of those polled said they would cast their vote compared to 25 percent In July, a bounce, very similar to what happens in the US after their parties’ presidential conventions. When Mr Cannonier and the OBA’s policies are scrutinised more closely, it is possible this support will drop.Secondly, the PLP also saw its support climb as well, albeit by a smaller amount, from 28 percent to 32 percent. So this shows that a great many people who were previously undecided are now firming up their opinions in anticipation of a general election. And until one party gets close to the magical 50 percent figure, it is still anyone’s election to win.The PLP also saw approval ratings both of the party and of Premier Paula Cox rise, and this should give some reason for hope, although it should be noted that they are coming off disastrously low figures in July.For the United Bermuda Party, this poll again says that Kim Swan and Charlie Swan need to throw in the towel. It may be worth their while to run a candidate in Devonshire South Central if only to confirm that belief, but when only one percent of those polled say they will vote for the UBP, the writing has to be on the wall. And assuming that the Swans have more in common with the OBA than they do with the PLP, some kind of accommodation would seem to be essential.Still, the OBA has the most to celebrate in this poll. A surge of 13 percent support in one quarter is substantial and the six percent lead is outside the margin of error.However, it is also clear that the OBA draws hefty support (72 percent) from white voters, just five percent of whom support the PLP. In the meantime, only 16 percent of black voters say they would vote for the OBA, compared to 49 percent for the PLP.That 16 percent figure is the same as it was in July, while the number of whites who said then that they would vote for the OBA in July was 48 percent. So the increase in support for the OBA has been almost entirely a result of white voters coalescing around the OBA while black support has not increased at all and remains well short of securing a national majority of votes for the OBA in a general election.In the meantime, the PLP’s black support increased from 39 percent in July to 49 percent now, which suggests that undecided black voters are moving towards the PLP en bloc. It may also be a defensive reaction to the formation of the OBA.If these trends hold true, then it means that the OBA’s goal to break the racial voting patterns that have dominated Bermuda elections remains some way off. And it suggests that the PLP’s efforts to paint the OBA as old wine in new bottles is working.To some degree that’s because the OBA has yet to lay out its policies in any real detail. Until that happens, the OBA will not have given people a reason to vote for them, even if they have been effective in explaining why people should vote against the PLP. But that’s not sufficient to win a general election.