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Sports, music to the world!

As Jamaica celebrates 60 years of Independence, an RJRGLEANER-commissioned poll has revealed that more than 60 per cent of Jamaicans believe sports and music are the country’s greatest achievements since the Union Jack was lowered and the now world-famous black, green and gold flag was raised in its place.

The findings are contained in a national poll conducted recently on behalf of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group by Don Anderson and his team from Market Research Services Limited.

The results dovetail well with a common perception that legendary reggae artiste, the late Bob Marley, and the fastest man to ever live, sprint phenomenon Usain Bolt, are the two most popular Jamaicans of all time.

In 1998, the country’s senior national men’s football team – the Reggae Boyz – qualified for and participated in what is heralded as the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet – the FIFA World Cup. The Reggae Girlz also scored a historic feat by qualifying for back-to-back Women’s World Cups.

Jamaica’s dominance in world sprinting is unrivalled with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson leading the current charge. And, yesterday’s Independence Day victory for Jamaica’s senior women’s netball team – the Sunshine Girls – went down in the history books as the first time the country booked a spot in the gold-medal match at the Commonwealth Games. Jamaica convincingly defeated New Zealand 67 to 51.

With such sporting heroics on the world stage, the category “Our sports” was in pole position and was listed as the island’s biggest achievement since Independence.

“Thirty-nine per cent of all persons interviewed spontaneously mentioned that this was where we have made our most significant impact, nationally and internationally, since Independence. Respondents were not prompted, but volunteered this answer when asked to indicate which they considered to be our greatest achievement,” pollster Anderson told The Sunday Gleaner.

He further explained that this was a view that was held consistently across all age and gender demographic groups to almost the same extent.


The survey revealed that Jamaicans rank ‘Our music” as the second most important achievement since Independence.

The island has churned out several world-renowned artistes over the years, many winning major international awards and topping global charts. Koffee, Shaggy, Sean Paul, Jimmy Cliff, the Marleys, The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Shabba Ranks, Toots Hibbert, Gregory Isaacs, Spice, Buju Banton, and Shenseea are just a few of countless artistes who have taken Jamaican music globally.

“Twenty-seven per cent of all persons, again spontaneously, mentioned this as our greatest achievement since Independence. But, unlike the issue of sports, there was some noticeable variance within the demographic groups amongst those who mentioned our music as our greatest achievement,” Anderson explained.

He added: “This was a view held by males more so than females, by younger persons 18-24 than by older persons, and significantly more so by persons from the lower income group than by persons in the upper income groups. For example, 32 per cent of persons in the lower income group mentioned our music, compared to 15 per cent from the upper income segment of the population.”


Cultural growth was ranked the third, with nine per cent of Jamaicans believing it was the country’s greatest achievement since Jamaica gained political Independence in 1962, after more than 300 years under British rule.

Physical development was next, with six per cent and economic growth, at four per cent, rounded off the top five.

Four per cent of respondents listed ‘nothing’ as the country’s greatest achievements and another four per cent said they were not sure.

In what appears to be a nod to the critical impact of the bipartisan Electoral Commission of Jamaica and its role in helping to pull Jamaica from the brink of political violence and anarchy, two per cent of respondents named electoral reform as the country’s biggest accomplishment. Political maturity was, however, identified by only one per cent of respondents as the country’s greatest achievement.

Reducing poverty also registered one per cent, along with another category the pollsters described as “others”.

Findings reflect failure to educate populace on progress, suggest commentators

Reacting to the findings of the RJRGLEANER-commissioned Don Anderson poll on what Jamaicans believe were the country’s greatest achievements since Independence, University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer and social commentator Dr Nadeen Spence noted that Jamaicans should value more highly the tradition of political parties respecting the decision made on election day.

“The idea that democracy, through peaceful elections and peaceful transitions, is the only game in town is a highly valued one. We have to celebrate that and value that. Geopolitically, we are neighbours to Latin America with another type of tradition towards transitions. In fact, the American state is now in crisis given their recent experience,” Spence told The Sunday Gleaner.

She also believes the quality of Jamaica’s civil society is also worthy of mention.

“Our international presence on matters of women’s rights, human rights, child rights has been admirable. This has been made possible through a plethora of citizens’ groups that have won the respect of the international community,” noted Spence.

“Our scholars and the place of Caribbean scholarship must also be acknowledged. We must remember that it was with the birth of an independent nation that we birthed scholarship that was for us and by us. Since that time, the community of scholars focused on understanding and explaining things Jamaican has been almost constant.”

Spence also cautioned against Jamaicans running with the post-slavery narrative that black people are only good at sports and entertainment and not in other arenas widely viewed as being more cerebral.

Another social commentator, Jaevion Nelson, believes the poll results are true to form.

“It’s not surprising at all that sports and music are ranked so highly and by so many people,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

“While many of us are often generally unsure about our achievements as a country, especially on the world stage, we tend to know and can readily point to the tremendous contributions and impact our sportsmen and sportswomen and artistes have had. For many of us, this is what gives us a glimmer of hope and keeps our pride alight, despite the frustrations we have with the state of affairs in the country,” Nelson stated.

However, he argued that, in some way, the results are also an indictment on Jamaica’s education system and the country’s failure to educate the populace about other achievements such as electoral reform.

“This should serve as a catalyst, a call to action to our leaders about how much more needs to happen to address the challenges, engender hope and, importantly, better educate people about our success and contributions on the world stage. One hopes that our leaders recognise, from these findings, that most of us are not pleased with our progress over the years. People are hankering for more and now is the time to pause and do more to improve the economy, for all of us, and ensure better livelihoods,” said Nelson.


Political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang assessed the poll results as a fair reflection of common perception and may have also been influenced by recent bias.

“Maybe sports’ top ranking is a bit warped by the time the poll is taken with World Championships, etc, going on, [with] people watching TV and talking about it. Sports is on the top of everyone’s minds right now,” he reasoned.

“In my humble opinion, culture and music – inextricably linked – are Jamaica’s greatest achievement. Economically and politically, we lag, but we still have rule of law, freedom of the press and fair elections. While we have those, we can achieve those goals,” O’Brien Chang added.

Field work for the RJRGLEANER Communications Group poll was conducted between July 16 and 26 this year, and involved interviews among 1,113 people in a nationally representative sample of persons ages 18 years and over. The margin of error was plus or minus three per cent.