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Survey by ex-Peradeniya academic finds Karu has slight edge in presidential polls


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An island-wide opinion survey conducted by a former Peradeniya University Professor has given Speaker Karu Jayasuriya a slight edge over UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, the retired sociologist told a news conference yesterday. 

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya



Senior Fulbright Fellow and former faculty member of the Department of Sociology at Peradeniya University Dr. Sisira Pinnawala told journalists that his research contained a sample size of 1,675 voters, with the entire vote base divided into 10 geographical sub-groups.

Jayasuriya, the current Speaker of Parliament, who has remained tight-lipped about his prospects in contesting the presidency even as a battle rages for candidacy within his party, was leading in seven out of 10 sub-groups polled in Dr Pinnawala’s research. UNP Deputy Leader Premadasa, the current favourite to win the UNP candidacy, polled well in four out of 10 sub-groups, the survey found. 

The entire survey was conducted using telephone interviews with voters, the retired university don explained. Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and Christian majority areas were chosen to conduct the poll. 

“The research was based on three main assumptions: (1) that the SLFP will not put a candidate forward, (2) that the UNP will unite behind a single candidate, and (3) that the minority parties and especially the Tamil National Alliance, would not field a candidate,” Dr Pinnawala explained. 

The retired academic explained that his survey had found that the candidacy of JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake was likely to damage both the SLPP and the UNP at the 2019 Presidential Election. “Our research found that the winner of the 2019 Presidential Election will be determined by minority voters,” Dr Pinnawala said. The other key voting bloc was the Sinhala Buddhists, he added. “Whichever candidate hopes to win the election must be able to poll at least 50% of the Sinhala Buddhist votes,” the former academic emphasised. 

The 10 geographic areas chosen for the survey were as follows:  Colombo metropolitan area; Colombo and suburbs professionals; secondary cities (Kandy/Matara/Gampaha/Galle/Kurunegala); rural Sinhala Buddhist areas (the largest vote base); backward remote areas (Monaragala/Hambantota); plantation sector; North and East Tamil majority areas; North and East Muslim majority areas; Muslim majority areas in the interior; and Christian majority areas in coastal areas.

Dr Pinnawala’s survey found that Premadasa was likely to do well in the plantation sector, two minority sectors or groups in the North and East, and Muslim interior areas. Jayasuriya was likely to poll better in urban areas, where SLPP presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa is also expected to do well, compared to Premadasa, the survey results showed. 

The sociologist’s survey concluded that the JVP candidate would poll a higher percentage of votes in the event that Premadasa was fielded as the UNP candidate.  Dissanayake would poll lower numbers in the event that the Speaker of Parliament was at the head of the UNP ticket, the results suggested. 

The media conference was held at the headquarters of the National Movement for a Just Society in Rajagiriya.  A survey conducted by academics of the Moratuwa University on the forthcoming Presidential Election will be released at the same premises at 11 a.m. today.


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