The positive effect of the JLP’s $1.5-m promise

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The promise by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to exempt Jamaicans earning below $1.5 million per year from income tax in the lead-up to the 2016 General Election had a positive effect on almost one-third of those who voted for the party, veteran pollster Bill Johnson has said.

Johnson provided the data from two polls conducted March 12-15 and July 9-12 this year. The polls were commissioned by the Jamaica Observer, but the March survey was not published due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Johnson, whose researchers used a sample size of 1,200 voting-age Jamaicans islandwide, said the poll has a sampling error of 2.5 per cent.

Immediately after the election results were announced, analysts attributed the JLP’s victory to Andrew Holness’s 11th-hour 10-point plan and its centrepiece income tax proposal, as well as the refusal of the People’s National Party (PNP) to participate in national political debates.

Holness’s proposal that a Government led by him would “get rid of personal income tax for everyone who earns a gross salary of $1.5 million or less” created the biggest buzz during the campaign, as the PNP and some financial analysts slammed it as unworkable. They also argued that it would derail the economic reform programme approved by the International Monetary Fund.

“It would certainly seem to be one of the major causes of the JLP victory in an election in which it defeated the PNP by just one seat — 32 to 31 — and in the popular vote by about 3,200 votes out of almost 900,000 that were cast,” Johnson said in an analysis of the findings of his polls.

He said when his team asked people who acknowledged that they had voted for the JLP to say whether the tax exemption promise had influenced their vote, five per cent of respondents in the March poll said it was one of the biggest reasons, compared to three per cent in the July poll.

Twenty-seven per cent of respondents in both polls said the tax promise did influence their vote, but it was not the biggest reason, while 62 per cent in the March poll and 66 per cent in the July poll said the promise was not a reason for their vote.

Johnson also reported that 49 per cent of respondents in the March poll said they had voted in the 2016 election, compared to 50 per cent who said they didn’t, while in the July poll the numbers were 53 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively.

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