STICKING A PIN: UNDERSTANDING THE GRENADIAN VOTER
Written by William Joseph on February 14, 2018
Voting is undertaken as a solemn duty by some; but, for others, it is a mere transaction! For some, voting is an opportunity to exact retribution for some personal reason. Continuing, some may vote with a grievance or let-down in mind. So, the motivation to vote ranges from responsibility, gratitude and reward, to revulsion, punishment and rejection. Some voters are driven by fear based on a pattern of behavior by a leader. For others, elections are an opportunity to identify with the party they support and to celebrate that relationship. Occasionally, some are prepared to vote for change!
Generally, voting patterns may be said to be influenced by historical, cultural, demographic and economic factors. Class and culture tend to be key predictors of voting decisions. Thank God we do not have to contend with issues of race and ethnicity.
With respect to culture, I contend that we do not ‘vote in’ governments; we ‘vote out’! We do so on two grounds, firstly; where the economy is in hardship mode, or, secondly; where the conduct of the PM and ministers is so bad that citizens say enough is enough (2008 judgment).
Notice, however, that ‘voting out’ may also be due to political instability and division (2013 and 1999… so called default conditions). The second major cultural factor to note is that when elections are called, many ordinary citizens ask the question, “who we go put dey?” By that they mean who we go make Prime Minister. They go to the polls to elect a Prime Minister!
Interestingly, this feature is an out-growth of the estate system era. In that historical period, the estate owner was a provider to his poor laborers. He provided a regular wage, some fruits and vegetables, a little house spot or a small loan to them. In return, they respected and trusted him, were grateful, worked honestly. Significantly, he was also a passive mentor. In him they found the inspiration to educate their children. They understood their circumstances but figured- out that their children could have what the owner had, i.e. a better life.
Fifty years after the demise of the estate system, the Prime Minister has replaced the estate owner as the provider for the poor. Hence, many poor people look to the PM for help in meeting their basic needs and they are not concerned with or disturbed about sources of money. They trust and admire a provider. They give loyal support, sometimes, undying support. They know and practice gratitude.
Poor Grenadians vote largely based on love for a leader, acquired in a relationship of provision, caring and the common touch! Additionally, they may be influenced by the church, their middle and working-class children or relatives to vote a particular way. Working- class voters are the children of poor Grenadians. They have moved up socially and economically because of education and training. The education came at the sacrifice of their poor parents. This group is very literate; they are interested in knowledge and can sift things. They read and listen. Understandably, they need a regular wage through reliable employment. They are big on family, education, sacrifice and values.
But do not think of the working- class as a standard of purity in society. They have their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Some will abandon good Sunday school teachings and values for a ‘pottage of stew’! Esau mentality!
A party that is in harmony with or sensitive to these interests, mindsets and outlook on life will do well with this group. Notice, however, that they are also deeply moved by the charisma factor. In this instance, it is not blind admiration, but the inspirational pull and drive of the leader that matters. The expectation is that the leader would commit to dealing with the major national causes of the day, such as development, poverty, employment, healthcare and stability.
The Grenadian middle-class is comprised mostly by those of poor or working-class parentage, but who have taken advantage of opportunities to do well as professionals, contractors, technicians and small business men and women. They are in the money-making business. Even though they nursed morality and good values, many drift from those moorings. Stability is crucial to them, as well as people to buy their goods and services, i.e. working-class people. So, economic conditions and prospects heavily influence their voting decisions.
The upper-class interests involve security, stability, a thriving economy, access to and accommodation by the authorities and recognition. For this group, issues such as corruption and morality hardly matter. Accordingly, they will vote for a leader in whom they feel confident that their interests will be covered and with whom they can have a comfortable social relationship, at their call.
Finally, consider the youth, who are mostly the children of poor and working-class Grenadians. To make sense of things here, it is prudent to segment this demographic as it is not a homogeneous group. Some appear to mirror the poor (emotional appeal of charisma), while others will apply more thought to their voting decisions. Those in the latter group need to be inspired and to be shown a path to betterment. They too can sift things, i.e. pick sense from nonsense.
Recognizable groups are:
Divas/ boy outta road…unemployed, fete/fashion/fast foods and fun
Employed as teachers, police, nurses, trades, services sector
Pursuing tertiary education.
Therefore, some of the youth vote may be ‘bought’, but most of it must be earned!
Allowing for exceptions to the rule, people vote similarly based on shared experiences, interests and needs. Voting may be a rational thing, but it may well be reckless. Some voters act in their own deliberate judgment; others are influenced or enticed to vote. Whatever the position, issues of class and culture establish highly predictable voting patterns among the Grenadian electorate. Given their respective sizes, the elections are decided by the poor, working-class and youth.