Judging by the results of MaltaToday’s June survey, the Maltese extremists from the far right may no longer be treated as a sick joke. A lack of political and moral leadership against racism and the glamorisation of the far right by sections of the media have paid back, with 25 per cent of respondents expressing “some” form of agreement with Norman Lowell’s racist credo.
The survey was held just a few days before Lowell’s arraignment in court for inciting racial hatred and offending the person of the President of the Republic, his second arraignment for incitement of racial hatred.
With just under 7 per cent (6.6 per cent) of respondents seriously considering voting for either one of the two Maltese far right movements, the Maltese far right has become an electoral reality. The survey shows that racist sentiments are inbred among a wider section of the population with a majority of respondents objecting to their sons or daughters marrying African migrants – a throwback to the days of apartheid and racial segregation.
Still, for those who still value human rights, the survey has a silver lining with a majority disagreeing with the current policy of keeping migrants in detention for more than a year. An EU directive is being proposed to limit detention to 12 months. On this count, the efforts of the enlightened media to highlight the inhumanity of long periods of detention policies may have paid.
A sign of encouragement for those believing in a multicultural future comes from the fact that 45 per cent welcome the presence of migrant children in their children’s classrooms as an opportunity for children to explore different cultures.
4.8 per cent of respondents would seriously consider voting for Norman Lowell’s movement while 4.7 would seriously consider voting for Martin Degiorgio’s Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana if these two movements contest the next general election.
The total sum of respondents seriously considering voting for either of the two far right movements amounts to 6.6 per cent.
Lowell had only managed to get 1,603 votes first preference votes, barely 0.6 per cent, in the 2004 European elections when the country’s governability was not at stake. This could be an indication that while people might consider voting for the racist right, many would refrain from doing so in a real election.
In fact only 1.4 per cent opted for other parties apart from the PN, the MLP and AD when asked on their actual voting intentions in a forthcoming elections. None of these wanted to specify which party they would be voting for.
Yet since 2004, the racist menace has become more tangible, with the first public demonstrations against immigration held in Safi in 2005, the birth of the more ‘respectable’ Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana later on in 2005, and the escalation of right wing terrorism culminating in attacks against journalists in 2006.
Profile of the Maltese far right
Norman Lowell’s movement is definitely the most known of the two wings of the Maltese far right. While Lowell is unknown to 13 per cent of respondents, the ANR is still an unknown entity for half the respondents of the survey. On the other hand, while only 2.4 per cent expressed strong agreement with Norman Lowell, a significant 5 per cent expressed strong agreement with the Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana.
Lowell’s anti-establishment message, which combines virulent racism with an underlying anti clericalism, strikes a greater chord with respondents which would vote for the Malta Labour Party: 8.4 of respondents opting for the MLP in a forthcoming general election would consider voting for Lowell if he contests. Only 2.8 per cent of Nationalist-oriented voters would do likewise.
Out of those stating they would consider voting for Lowell, 41.6 per cent would vote for the MLP in a forthcoming general elections.
On the other hand the more moderate and traditionalist ANR with its odd mixture of anti-immigrant slogans and appeal to Malta’s Christian traditions, strikes a greater chord with Nationalist party oriented voters. While 8.4 per cent of respondents opting for the PN would consider voting for the ANR, 7.2 per cent of Labour voters do likewise. A profile of ANR’s potential voters shows that these are equally divided between the two main parties.
Interestingly most of the potential voters for the far right are not disgruntled voters with no trust in any of the other three parties. Only a third of potential voters for Norman Lowell’s movement would not vote in a forthcoming election and none of them are undecided. Only 11 per cent of ANR potential voters are undecided while another 16 per cent are still undecided.
Still the two movements share a common core of potential voters – with half of those who consider voting for the ANR’s potential voters also considering voting for the more radical Norman Lowell.
On the whole the survey shows that MLP voters are more likely to consider voting for a far right party than Nationalist voters are. Yet taken as a whole Nationalist voters are more likely to object to their son or daughter marrying an African migrant than Labour ones. Nationalist voters are also more likely to favour long periods of detention for irregular migrants than Labour voters are.
Surprisingly the two far right parties also manage to make inroads among the party, which has been vocal in its opposition to racism, Alternattiva Demokratika. 54 per cent of AD voters expressed agreement with some of Lowell’s ideas. 16.7 per cent of those considering voting for Lowell, would vote for his ideological nemesis, the Greens, in a real election. This could be an indication of the variegated nature of AD’s vote in its role as Malta’s catch-all third party.
Racism across generations
Worryingly racist sentiments are stronger among the younger generations. In the 18-34 age bracket, 4.3 per cent expressed strong agreement with Lowell’s views. Only 0.9 of those aged over 55 express strong agreement with the demagogue. 32.6 of the younger age group also express mild agreement with Lowell. Only 17 per cent of the older age group do likewise.
Surprisingly even when it comes to real life issues like love and marriage, the younger generation was more racist than older generations. Who said love knows no borders? 24 per cent of 18-34 year olds would not allow a son or daughter to marry an irregular migrant from Africa. Among those aged over 55, the percentage of those objecting to such a marriage falls to 19 per cent.
Support for detention is also higher among younger people. While 50 per cent of those aged between 18-24 support holding migrants in detention for more than a year, the percentage of those supporting long periods of detention falls to 35 per cent among those aged over 55.
This is an indication that something is seriously wrong in the Maltese education system
The survey also shows a latent and primitive racism based on fear of racial breeding, harking back to Katharine Hepburn’s 1967 classic movie Guess Who’s Coming Home To Dinner which deals with the shock of a middle class couple when their daughter brings home a black fiancé. 62.5 per cent would advise their children not to marry an African migrant. 23.9 per cent would not even allow them to do so. Only 13 per cent would not mind having a black migrant as a son or daughter in law.
Greater tolerance and appreciation of multiculturalism is shown when children are involved. In fact 45 per cent view the presence of migrant children in class as an opportunity for their children to learn on a different culture. Yet 42 per cent would like to have these children medically tested for disease.
Concerns on migration
The top concern of the Maltese on migration is the perception that immigrants are taking Maltese jobs. An irrational fear that the 1,500 odd migrants who come to Malta by mistake every year are invading or taking over the country affects one fifth of the population. 9.7 per cent also consider immigration as a financial burden. Only 4.5 per cent consider the ill treatment and the lack of adequate facilities for migrants as their top concern on migration. Another 4 per cent do not consider immigration as a problem.
The survey was held between Tuesday 23 May and Friday 26 May. A total of 444 respondents were randomly chosen from the telephone directory with 300 accepting to participate in the survey. The results of the survey were weighed according to reflect the age and sex distribution of the Maltese and Gozitan population.