A plurality of voters polled in the latest survey by Bill Johnson say that St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna should succeed Dr Peter Phillips as People’s National Party (PNP) president.
Hanna, who won the Miss World crown in 1993, holds a 10 percentage point lead over her nearest rival, Mark Golding, the St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament who yesterday declared his intention to seek the presidency in the wake of Dr Phillips’s announcement that he had submitted his resignation as party leader after the September 3 General Election in which the PNP was crushed by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 14-49 seats.
Johnson’s latest poll, commissioned by the Jamaica Observer, was conducted September 11 to 13 among 1,000 voting-age Jamaicans islandwide. It has a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.
When the researchers asked who should replace Phillips, given that he has submitted his resignation, 20 per cent of respondents said Hanna, 10 per cent said Golding, while eight per cent pointed to Peter Bunting who, before the election, was regarded by many as the man to succeed Phillips.
However, Bunting — a former Cabinet minister and PNP general secretary — failed to defend his Manchester Central seat, losing to newcomer, the JLP’s Rhoda Moy Crawford in one of the biggest upsets of the September 3 election. That loss essentially threw him out of contention for the PNP presidency, which he had sought a year ago but lost in a bruising leadership challenge to Phillips. That contest reopened wounds within the party that were still raw from as far back as the bitter 2006 internal election when Portia Simpson Miller beat Phillips, Dr Karl Blythe and Dr Omar Davies to succeed PJ Patterson as PNP president.
Trailing Hanna, Bunting and Golding in the latest poll are Damion Crawford, who was chosen by four per cent of respondents; PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson, who was favoured by three per cent; and party Vice-President Phillip Paulwell, two per cent.
“A strong plurality of Jamaicans believe Lisa Hanna should be the future of the People’s National Party,” Johnson said in his analysis of the findings. “She is particularly strong among those under 35 years old where she is supported by more voters than all of her opponents combined. Her strongest opponent, Mark Golding, is strongest among those 55 years and older.”
Among respondents in the 18-24 age group Hanna — who managed to hang on to her seat by a mere 31 votes in the September 3 election — has 30 per cent support, while Golding has four per cent. In the 25-34 age group the spread is 22 per cent for Hanna, compared to eight per cent for Golding, while in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups Hanna enjoys 15 and 19 per cent, respectively, compared to 12 and nine per cent, respectively for Golding.
In the 55-64 and 65 and older age groups Golding commands 18 per cent and 19 per cent support, respectively, compared to Hanna’s 11 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.
While Hanna, Crawford, Robinson and Paulwell have not yet signalled their intention to contest the presidency, Hanna’s ascension to the top of the group in the September poll is an improvement on her favourability among respondents in Johnson’s previous poll conducted August 21 to 23.
In that survey she was identified by 17 per cent of respondents as the person to head the PNP, compared to 36 per cent who chose Bunting.
Earlier this month, PNP Chairman Fitz Jackson had told the Observer that Phillips had clearly indicated that he is remaining as Opposition leader, PNP president, and Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Central until the matter of the presidency, first and foremost, is settled,” added Jackson.