Submitted by Rickford Burke
On October 31, 2011 Stabroek News published a letter by Vishnu Bisram captioned “NACTA poll puts PPP in lead.” The letter provided results of a purported tracking poll, allegedly conducted by an entity calling itself the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA),” which gauged popular support for political parties contesting next month’s general elections in Guyana.
Bisram, who published said results and wrote the referenced letter, also claims to have conducted this poll himself. His multi-tasking reminds me of the story told about a remote “Dixie” town in rural America; where an out of State driver passing through town was pulled over by a highway patrol and ticketed for speeding. He overnighted at a local hotel to attend court the next day. On exiting the hotel the following morning, he recognizes that the newspaper man is the cop who ticketed him. After breakfast he dropped in at the post office to send off a letter, only to discover that the cop is also the mailman. When he arrived in court, the same cop looked at him and said “court is in session.” He was also the judge!
Bisram said that his methodology for this ‘so-called’ poll was random “interviews of 500 voters to yield a demographically representative sample” of the electorate. This pool of 500 voters, he said, comprised: 45% Indians; 30% Africans; 16% Mixed; 8% Amerindians, and 1% other races. He did not specify the geographic locations of the respondents or if the respondents were just people of various races or truly registered voters – an essential factor in determining if this alleged poll truly reflects the views of a representative sample of the “actual” electorate.
He claims the results of his purported “survey” to be: PPP 48%; APNU 25%; AFC 8%; JFAP 1%; other parties 1%.’ 17% of the alleged 500 respondents were either “undecided” or provided “no response.”
These statistics seem nugatory and laughable at best, as they are presented in a vacuum with no supporting data upon which its integrity can be evaluate. Therefore Bisram must detail the following:
The regions, towns and villages from whence he obtained his alleged “demographic, representative sampling,” by race in order to ascertain if his pool of respondents is a proportional representation of the demographics of the electorate.
Upon what basis did he determine that his arbitrary selection of the above percentages of the various races are in actuality representative of the racial composition of electorate in each region.
How was the survey effectuated; by phone or by in-person interviews? And,
Provide, for public scrutiny, his work sheet with tabulations and completed respondents survey forms for independent verification and analysis.
Bisram claimed the poll was taken “last week.” His assertion that his survey concluded within one week, according to his own admission, alone undermines, if not, invalidates his result, as Guyana’s size, topography and communication deficiencies do not allow for the completion of such a herculean exercise within so short a period.
As a political strategist myself, I know that in order to have an accurate, scientific poll that reflects popular support for political parties, a credible opinion poll, conducted by a trained pollster, must produce an outcome based on an impeccable methodology and an expertly designed poll questionnaire based on established standards. To achieve this in Guyana’s context, respondents must be methodically selected from the voters’ list, from among representative populations of every region of the country; including the hinterland. Unless he is omnipotent and omnipresent, there is no way that Bisram could have accurately surveyed hinterland communities of regions 1, 9, 8 and 7, within seven days.
Worst, Bisram is severely lacking in credibility and bears the albatross of grave political bias towards the PPP tightly around the neck. He pledged his support to the PPP by letter to Janet Jagan in 1997, and therein offered up himself for employment with the PPP as public relations officer in North America, after complaining that negative opposition propaganda in the US was damaging the PPP’s image. Since he can proffer no evidence to establish that he is a qualified pollster, then we must at least credit him for being a qualified opportunist.
Consequently, Bisram must now answer the aforementioned questions, and accordingly place his primary data in the public domain for peer review; falling which he should take his diminutive, “wishy washy” nonsense to “Babu John” for cremation.
The foregoing notwithstanding, I would award him an Oscar for best actor for his solo role in the comedy “Propping up the PPP in a poll.” Now that he has received his award, let us all laugh him out of town for presenting us with such poppycock.