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59% still favour divorce: MaltaToday's second survey reliably confirms

New MaltaToday survey vindicates first survey and puts into question Sunday Times survey

james
James Debono
16 August 2010, 12:00am
The MaltaToday results contrast with a Sunday Times survey published last Sunday, which failed to account for people who favour divorce only in certain circumstances.

In contrast to the Sunday Times, which asked respondents how they would vote in a generic referendum asking them whether divorce should be introduced or not, MaltaToday asked respondents how they would vote in a referendum based on Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando’s private member’s bill, which limits divorce to persons who have lived apart from their partner for at least four years in the last five.

While 49% would vote yes to this concrete divorce proposal, a further 10% would be willing to do so if divorce is only introduced in “certain circumstances”.

The result on this particular question is very similar to the results of a survey held by MaltaToday in July, which asked respondents to state their agreement or disagreement with this divorce proposal without making any reference to a referendum. 

The only difference is that, when faced with a referendum, respondents were more likely to give a clear rather than a qualified yes.  In fact the number of people favouring divorce in certain circumstances dropped by 10 percentage points while the number of those opting for a clear yes rises by 10 percentage points.

Unlike the MaltaToday survey, the Sunday Times’ question failed to refer to a concrete legislative proposal, which has already been presented to the Maltese parliament. 

For the sake of comparison, MaltaToday also asked respondents how they would vote in a divorce referendum without any reference to a concrete legislative proposal. 

While the percentage of respondents opposing divorce is similar in both surveys (45% in the Sunday Times survey and 43% in the MaltaToday survey), the MaltaToday survey shows that while 37% favour divorce (40% in the Sunday Times survey) a further 13% favour divorce in specific circumstances.

This category of respondents were not prompted as the MaltaToday survey also presented respondents with a  clear yes or no choice.  But a sizeable number of  respondents still  replied “yes in particular circumstances.” These were listed apart, as has been done in all other surveys previously conducted by MaltaToday.

The absence of this option in the Sunday Times survey is reflected in a spike in the number of don’t knows. While the percentage of don’t knows in the Sunday Times survey amounted to 13.5%, this drops to 6% in MaltaToday’s survey.

The MaltaToday survey shows that support for divorce varies according to the type of divorce proposed to the electorate.

In fact, the MaltaToday survey shows that opposition to divorce drops by 6 percentage points when respondents are asked whether they would vote for a divorce if this is limited to couples who have lived apart from each other for at least four years.

In fact, 9% of those who would vote against divorce in a generic referendum changed their mind when asked about how they would vote in a referendum, limiting divorce to persons living apart from their partners for more than four years.

This could be an indication that this legislative proposal allays popular fears of a Las Vegas style divorce, which clearly does not enjoy popular support.

It could also indicate that the electorate responds differently to different divorce proposals and that only a minority of respondents oppose divorce on ideological grounds.

This shows the importance of what kind of question is posed to the electorate if a referendum is held.

In fact, support for divorce increases dramatically when respondents are asked how they would vote for in a referendum which restricts divorce to couples whose relationship fell apart because of infidelity or violence: the two most popular grounds for divorce, according to a previous survey by this newspaper.

In fact, nearly two thirds would vote yes for this kind of divorce while 8% specified that they would vote for divorce if this is only made available to the victim of infidelity or violence while 4% specified that violence should be the only ground for divorce.

 

Main findings

50.6% would vote yes for divorce in a referendum but 13.3% would only do so if divorce is introduced in specific circumstances.

49.2% would vote yes for divorce in a referendum if this is limited to couples who have lived apart from each other for at least four years.  9.7% would also vote yes if divorce is introduced in specific circumstances.

65% would vote yes for divorce in a referendum if divorce is only introduced in cases of marital infidelity or violence.

Opposition to divorce drops by 6 percentage points when respondents are asked whether they would vote for a divorce if this is limited to couples who have lived apart from each other for at least four years.

Survey confirms generation gap on divorce with opposition to divorce rising from 32% among under 34 year olds to 59% among over 55 year olds.

 

Tables:

If there is a referendum with the question; do you agree or disagree with the introduction of divorce, how would you vote?

                                                                       

                                                                MaltaToday               Sunday Times

Yes in favour of divorce                           37.3                            40.1

Yes in certain circumstances*                 13.3                             ?

Total Yes                                                 50.6                            40.1

No against divorce                                 43.3                             45.4

Don’t Know                                               5.9                               13.5

Won’t vote                                                0.2                               0.6      

No reply                                                    0                                  0.4

Respondents were only prompted to state yes in favour of divorce or no against divorce but some respondents qualified their yes referring to divorce in particular circumstances

If there is a referendum with the question; do you agree or disagree with the introduction of divorce for persons who have lived apart from partner for more than four years, how would you vote?

                                                                  August                        July*

Yes in favour of divorce                             49.2                             40.7

Yes in certain circumstances                     9.7                               18.7

Total Yes                                                   58.9                             59.4

No against divorce                                  37.3                             37.3

Don’t Know                                                3.8                               3.3

The July survey asked respondents the same question without referring to a referendum

How respondents opposed to divorce in a generic referendum about divorce would vote if divorce is limited to persons who have lived apart from partner for more than four years:

               

Yes in favour of divorce                            9.1

Yes in certain circumstances                    8.5

Total Yes                                                  17.6

No against divorce                                    81.1

Don’t Know                                               1.2

If there is a referendum with the question; do you agree or disagree with the introduction of divorce if this is only limited to couples who have separated from each other because of marital infidelity or violence, how would you vote?*

Yes                                                                            65

No                                                                             18.3

Yes but only in cases of violence                              4.8

Yes but only for the victims of violence or infidelity    8

Don’t Know                                                                3.8

 
  • Marital infidelity and violence were the most popular grounds for divorce among respondents opting for divorce in certain cases in July survey.


Respondents opting for divorce in “certain circumstances” in July survey were also asked to specify in which cases divorce should be introduced.  The answers were:

Violence                                            95.4

Marital Infidelity                                73.8

Incompatibility                                   20

Falling out of love                            18.5   

 

Opinion by age groups:

If there is a referendum with the question; do you agree or disagree with the introduction of divorce, how would you vote?

                                                                      18-34               35-54               55+

Yes                                                                55.4                 35.8                 23.4    

Yes in certain circumstances                         8.9                   18.7                 11.7

Total Yes                                                       64.3                 54.5                 35.1

No                                                                  32.1                 37.4                 58.5

Don’t Know                                                     3.6                   8.1                   5.8

Won’t vote                                                      0                      0                      0.6

If there is a referendum with the question; do you agree or disagree with the introduction of divorce, for persons who have lived apart from partner for more than four years, how would you vote:

                                                                        18-34               35-54               55+

Yes                                                                  63.6                 58.1                 28.7

Yes in certain circumstances                           5.5                   9.7                   13.5

Total Yes                                                         69.1                 67.8                 42.2

No                                                                    27.3                 26.6                 55.6

Don’t Know                                                       3.6                   5.6                   2.3

Methodology

A total of 501 persons were randomly selected from the printed and on-line telephone directories.  The survey was stopped after a quota of 350 respondents was reached.  The survey was held between Monday 9 and Thursday 12 August. 

Data was weighed to reflect actual population figures in the 2008 demographic review.  The survey has a margin of error of +/-5.2%.  The Sunday Times survey had a margin of error  of +/- 3.5%.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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Adam Zammit
Malta Today, this is an area where you lead hands down because your efforts seek to obtain a clear and simple answer to a complicated question while others seem to be only interested in generating answers that fit their agenda.