Like four years ago – the results next Friday could be different: Today Newspaper poll gives UP majority of votes

POSTED: 08/22/14 12:18 AM

St. Maarten – The votes are in, and boy, did Chippie-users grab the opportunity to make their political preference known. Today’s partner in this project, telecom provider UTS received no less than 1,269 text messages from Chippie-users who responded to the poll.

While the pie charts show the results from different angles, it is important to read this figures in their correct context. For this, we will also use the results of an identical poll Today organized using the Chippie-network in 2010.

The raw numbers look like this: United People’s party 452 votes (55 percent), Democratic Party 143 votes (17 percent), National Alliance 119 votes (14 percent), United St. Maarten party 70 votes (9 percent), Social Reform Party 27 votes (3 percent) and One St. Maarten people party 13 votes (2 percent). Add to these 43 invalid votes and 77 people indicating that they will not vote next Friday, and the total number of votes is 944. The rest were double votes that have been eliminated from the results.

While these numbers indicate an overwhelming victory for Theo Heyliger’s UP, the party should not get too cocky over these numbers – at least, not yet.

Our poll has obviously several limitations that readers (and politicians) ought to be aware of. First of all, this poll is not based on science. We do not have a solid marketing research organization on the island that is able to do these kinds of polls with any hopes of getting close to the real results. Polling organizations in the Netherlands have faced the same problems over the years – and they make a claim to applying scientific research methods. Nevertheless, at more than one occasion elections results did not look at all like the picture that emerged from the polls.

One of the possible explanations for this discrepancy is that voters are unpredictable, in the sense that they may feel today that they will vote for party A, while they change their minds several times and in the end decide to vote on Election Day for party C.

One limitation of our poll is, for sure, that there is no way of knowing whether those who cast a vote are also eligible to take part in the elections. We have always argued that the large sample our Chippie-based poll yields (almost 1,300 votes, including double votes) will at least represent an impression of the current political sentiment in our community. The key word here is current: the mood could change due to major events or revelations that could still come out before next week Friday.

For instance, the contents of the Wit integrity report were not public yet when Chippie-users cast their vote.

Having said all this, it is good to look back how things went in 2010, when we organized this poll for the first time for local elections. That poll also gave the UP a landslide victory with 58 percent, followed by the National Alliance with 23 percent, the Democratic Party with 11 percent and the Concordia Political Alliance with 1.6 percent.

What happened at the real elections? The National Alliance won with 45.9 percent, beating the UP that won just 36.1 percent, while the DP did better than in the poll with 17.1 percent. The CPA ended with an irrelevant 0.9 percent.

Comparing these numbers to the ones from this year’s poll, we see that the UP scores a similar high percentage, that the NA drops from 23 to 14 percent, while the DP is actually doing better: from 11 to 17 percent. The United St. Maarten party did not take part four years ago and now scores 9 percent. Newcomers SRP (3 percent) and OSPP (2 percent) are – as was more or less expected – at the bottom of the pile.

Let us assume now that the number of eligible voters is 21,000 and that turnout next week Friday will be on a par with four years ago at 70 percent. That means that there will be 14,700 votes and if these were all valid the quote for a seat is (14,700:15) 980 votes.

Based on the percentages emerging from the poll, the UP would win 8.085 votes – good for 8 seats outright. The DP would win 2,499 votes – good for 2 seats outright. The NA would also win 2 seats outright with its 2058 votes and the USp would win 1,323 votes (1 seat outright). The SRP (441 votes) and the OSPP (294 votes) would be eliminated.

That leaves two residual seats. How are they going to be allocated? In the current system the residual votes of each party are divided by the seats it won outright plus 1. The highest number from this mathematical exercise wins a residual seat.

The UP would win 8 seats outright (7,840 votes, leaving 245 residual votes). This latter number then, divided by 8+1 returns the number 27.22. The DP – 2 seats outright (1,960 votes, 539 residual votes) would score (539:3) 179.66. The NA – 2 seats outright (1,960 votes, 98 residual votes would score (98:3) 32.66 and the USp – 1 seat outright (980 votes, 343 residual votes) would score (343:2) 171.5. This ways, the first residual seat would go to the DP.

For the second residual seat, this exercise is repeated. For four parties the number does not change, but for the DP it does: it now has to divide its residual votes by 4, returning the number 134.75. Therefore the second residual seat would go to the Usp, creating a parliament with an outright majority for the UP (8), DP (3), NA (2) and USp (2).

This is of course a pretty wild guess, given the fact that the UP scored in 2010 more than 20 percent below the picture that emerged from the Today poll.

One could only guess at the reasons for this stark discrepancy. It has once be suggested that the UP bought a massive number of cheap Chippie phones to distort the results of the poll, but that does not ring true. It could be that there are more Chippie-users among UP-supporters, also a fact that is impossible to check.

One other detail emerged from compiling the numbers. The analysts at UTS found that Chippie-users that support the National Alliance sent on average 1.8 text messages, while the average among supporters of other parties was 1.2. This shows that the strongest inclination to submit more than one vote was among NA-supporters – even though we made it clear from the beginning that double votes would be eliminated.

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