National political attitudes have not been kind or favourable towards Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton in this politically and culturally polarised society. President Ali, on the other hand, is very likeable and popular.
The PNC leader has been struggling to win people’s confidence, and for support or traction within his own party’s political base, as well as nationally. This is one conspicuous finding of an opinion poll conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bisram for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) over the last few weeks.
NACTA has been monitoring political attitudes (favourability, or positive views, and unfavourability, or negative views) towards leading politicians. While the public has a huge net positive favourable rating of President Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, among others, there is a net negative favourability rating for Norton, unlike several others (like Amanza Walton-Desir, Ganesh Mahipaul, Roysdale Forde, Geeta Chandan-Edmond, Volda Lawrence, Christopher Jones, among others) within his party, who have a positive net rating.
Norton was elected Leader of the Opposition PNC in December 2021, but has ever since been struggling to attain traction within the party, and win national appeal to solidify his place as a leader and to lead his party to victory in elections. Surveys conducted in December 2021 and in February 2022 found favourable support for Norton becoming Opposition Leader. It was felt that since he won the leadership contest, he had the right to serve as Opposition Leader.
He became the Opposition Leader in April 2021, and has since been losing popular appeal within the party’s base. He trails others in popularity ratings within the party base. Support for him as leader of the PNC has whittled away and plateaued. Only 13% of traditional PNC supporters back him, whereas his political opponent, President Irfaan Ali, has soaring approval ratings (80s) in his party’s base and in the sixtieth percentile nationally.
Norton has no crossover ethnic support, and he is not attracting support from floating or middle-of-the-ground voters, who are critical to winning an election. Discontented traditional supporters of the PPP reject him. He is not viewed, not even among PNC supporters, as an alternative President in the making to replace incumbent Irfaan Ali.
Ali comes across as a populist likable leader, whereas Norton is viewed as the opposite; and, not surprisingly, he lags behind Ali in popular appeal and voter support.
The general view among the national public is that the PNC will not rebound under Norton’s leadership, and will lose the upcoming LGE. Respondents are of the view that Norton should make way for younger, more likeable leadership of the PNC to stem the tide against support loss. However, within the party, almost half its supporters feel Norton should be allowed to complete his tenure as Leader of the PNC, and be given the opportunity to lead the party into Local Government Elections likely later this year.
When asked who should replace Norton should he demit office, Roysdale Forde is the leading choice, followed by Volda Lawrence and Amanza Walton-Desir, with others trailing way behind. The latter two exhibit challenges winning trust and confidence and crossover support from Indians because of ill-advised remarks uttered years ago. Although Volda has strong grassroots support as a party organizer, Indian voters seemingly don’t forget their remarks, whereas Forde does not carry similar baggage. Forde is also viewed as having good crossover appeal. Respondents describe Forde as a professional with an amicable persona, one who engages and listens to people, and one having apt leadership credentials. The duo trail Forde by double digits as potential successors to Norton.