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Comment: Parties better heed opinion poll

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Political parties in this country have been in a tizz since the publication of a NewsDay-commissioned opinion poll on Tuesday.

The poll showed that if elections were conducted on the day the poll took place, the MDC would win 32% of the votes while Zanu PF would garner 18%.

The poll, conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, also revealed that there was a large portion of undecided voters who could swing the overall results of an election.

Smaller political parties like Zapu and the MDC-M would win 6% and 1% of the vote respectively, the poll said. The angry reaction by the political parties, punctuated by their panic reaction, betrays the state of affairs in the political groupings.

Their greatest fear is having the state of their unpreparedness revealed. Since Tuesday, the parties — especially those that according to the poll have lost ground since the 2008 election – have contended that the results are wrong.

They have questioned the methodology used, the size of the sample and the bona fides of the pollster.

The parties have alleged that the poll was meant to generate media effects; that is stories or items presented with a specific intent to manipulate or affect the public.

Their argument has been that the poll would in itself create negative public perception about their respective political parties which would result in them losing votes.

They went to the extent of insinuating that the spirit of the poll was to execute a technique called “push polls” as a form of political manipulation — hiding behind the smokescreen of a public opinion survey but have the objective only of disseminating false or misleading information.

These are political parties trying to ascribe their poor mobilising strategy to a single opinion poll.

This is the tragedy of Zimbabwean politics. They are led by men and women who will always talk about their readiness to tackle and conquer the established order, yet come election time, they are dumped by voters in an embarrassing way.

Most serious voters choose to vote for a political party on the basis of what they believe the party can deliver and not necessarily that they have been influenced by a poll. This banal fact explains why voters in Binga — where basic communication does not exist even in its most rudimentary form — made up their minds to vote for the MDC-T in the last two elections.

So instead of being hostile to the poll, the parties must actually embrace the outcome of the survey and it should get them thinking about their levels of preparedness.

This is an opportunity for them to play catch-up and strategise on the basis of data from a scientific survey and not speculation. This is the route modern political parties are taking.

They pay attention to surveys.

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