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Concern over migration continues to rise

Since an attempt to make Europe ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ in a botched pushback, concern on migration has only continued to rise on the eve of the European elections

james
James Debono
24 March 2014, 8:31am
Tough talk on migration over 2013 seems to have only heightened anxiety over irregular immigration, not pacified it.
Tough talk on migration over 2013 seems to have only heightened anxiety over irregular immigration, not pacified it.
Despite the absence of any major boat arrivals during the winter months, concern about irregular migration has increased by seven points since December, suggesting an explosive situation on the eve of MEP elections over the increased likelihood of boat arrivals over the next few months.

The survey also suggests that the increased priority given to migration by government has not allayed popular concerns. In fact, concern over migration has increased by 15 points since June 2013, before the government’s unfulfilled threat to push back migrants to Libya and the Prime Minister’s call on the European Union to “wake up and smell the coffee”.

The survey – in which respondents were asked to name their top two national concerns – shows concern about jobs rising to 21 points, while concern about the cost of living, utility bills and the economy has continued to fall. 

Curiously, despite uncertainty about the future of public transport, concern about this issue has decreased by 5 points. On the other hand, concern about traffic and parking has increased.

Concern about the location of the new gas plant in Delimara, has supplanted the sale of citizenship as the second most urgent concern among PN voters.

Concern about the environment has decreased by 3 points but remains very high among respondents with a university education. Among this category, the environment emerges as the top concern.

Concern about corruption is also increasing. Although it only amounts to 5%, it still indicates the highest level of concern on the subject since 2006, according to previous MaltaToday surveys.

Concern about corruption is particularly high among respondents who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013 – so called ‘switchers’.

Changed landscape

The survey shows a drastic change from concerns under PN governments, when concerns about the cost of living and utility bills topped popular concerns, while jobs remained a relatively low-key concern.

On the other hand, this survey suggests that the election of a Labour government has resulted in growing concerns about jobs, immigration and transport-related issues.

Concern about jobs has now risen to 21% – the same level of concern registered in February 2010, when the global economic crisis was in full swing.

Concern for the cost of living was expressed by 67% of respondents in 2009 but had already fallen to 27% in June. Now concern on the cost of living has fallen to an all-time low of 12%.

Moreover, concern about Labour’s electoral trump card – the utility bills issue – has fallen from 50% in 2010 to 7% in December 2013, down to just 2.5% now.

Significantly, people are now more concerned about the state of the roads than by utility bills.

The decrease in concern over utility bills comes in the wake of a commitment by the government to reduce the bills by 25% as from the end of March.

Since consumers have not yet experienced any decrease in bills, the decrease in the percentage of respondents who mention utility bills as one of their two top concerns indicates that respondents are reassured by the new government’s plan to reduce these bills by building a new 215MW gas plant that will be serviced by an LNG vessel berthed in Marsaxlokk.

But the government’s energy policies appear to be rubbing people the wrong way, as evidenced by 7.3% showing concern over the location of the new LNG storage vessel.

In the wake of the smart meters scandal and the government’s decision to grant a partial amnesty to consumers who bribed Enemalta officials, concern on corruption has also risen to 5%, the highest ever recorded in a MaltaToday survey.

Concerns across the spectrum

While immigration emerges as the top concern among Labour voters, concern about jobs prevails among PN voters and switchers.

Significantly, concern about environmental issues is markedly higher among PN voters than among PL voters.

While the environment is one of the two top concerns of 11 % of PN voters, it is only a concern for 4% of PL voters. On the other hand, immigration is a top concern for 19% of PL voters and only 11% of PN voters.

Concern about the new gas plant has overtaken concern about the citizenship issue among PN voters.

Labour controversially decided to sell Maltese citizenship for €650,000, but later had to remove a secrecy clause, introduce a property and financial investment element of €500,000, and also get the European Commission’s green light by introducing a residence element in the law. The saga is still dragging on with a new PN motion to repeal the most recent legal notice.

Among PN voters, concern about the citizenship scheme has now dropped from 27% to 7%, while concern about the gas storage facilities has risen to 17%. On the other hand, only 2% of PL voters are concerned with this issue.

Concern about jobs is higher among PN voters and switchers.

Concern about corruption is lower among PL voters, than among PN voters. But the survey also reveals that concern about corruption is highest among PL voters who had voted PN in 2008.

This suggests that this category is particularly sensitive to issues related to good governance, which dominated Labour’s electoral campaign.

Class and education

Although concern about immigration is highest among PL voters, and stronger among those educated up to secondary level, concern about migration is highest among respondents with a post-secondary education. This suggests that concern about this issue is particularly strong among Labour voters with a post-secondary education.

The survey suggests that among working-class respondents with a secondary level of education, concern about immigration is still overtaken by bread-and-butter issues like jobs and inflation.

In a clear indication that concern about the environment prevails among the middle class, the survey shows that the environment is a top concern among 24% of university-educated respondents.

But concern about the environment drops to just 7% among respondents with a post-secondary education.

Concern on corruption is also highest among respondents with a university level of education and very low among those with a secondary or primary level of education.

On the other hand, concern about health is highest among respondents with a primary level of education and lowest among those with a university level of education.

Young people more concerned with immigration

Concern on immigration is highest among those aged between 18 and 34 years of age. Younger respondents are also more likely to be concerned with environmental issues and traffic and other transport-related issues. 

On the other hand, concern about the cost of living is highest among those aged between 35 and 54 years of age. 

Concern about jobs is high among all age groups but rises to 29% among those aged between 35 and 54 years of age.

Concern about health and public transport is highest among those aged above 55 years of age. 

Methodology

551 respondents were contacted by telephone between Monday 10 March and Thursday 13 March. 400 accepted to be interviewed. The results of the survey were weighed to reflect the age and gender balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.9%

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...