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MaltaToday survey • Labour four points ahead, PN consolidates

Latest polls and data for the upcoming MEP elections and trust barometer for leaders Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil

james
James Debono
15 April 2014, 7:20am
Alfred Sant is the frontrunner for May 2014's European elections
Alfred Sant is the frontrunner for May 2014's European elections
The second MaltaToday survey on voting intentions for next May’s elections for the European Parliament shows Labour leading the PN by 4 points, down from 7 last month.

This suggests the PN has cut Labour’s 12-point lead in the last general election, by eight points.

But rather than a shift from PL to PN, the result reflects a higher rate of indecision and abstention among Labour voters in the last general election.

In a sign of rising political tension, both parties gained ground, with the PN increasing its support by six points and the PL by three. But with no significant shifts between the two main parties, the decrease in the gap from the 2013 election result can be solely attributed to a segment of Labour voters who are still undecided or intent on not voting in next May’s election.

In fact the survey shows that while the PN has managed to consolidate its core of 2013 voters, the PL is struggling to motivate its voters. 85% of voters who said they voted PN in 2013, are sure of voting PN again; only 75% of PL voters will do likewise so far.

But the survey also shows that if Labour motivates its 2013 voters, it can yet extend its lead, because 2% of those PL voters will vote PN and these are counterbalanced by 2% of PN voters who will now vote PL.

The bad news for the Labour is that a segment of their voters have lost trust in party leader Joseph Muscat, who faces the first internal trouble in his party following a Cabinet reshuffle that followed the resignation of health minister Godfrey Farrugia.

Muscat’s trust rating has not only fallen by four points, but 8.2% of Labour voters in the last general election now trust neither party leader.

Simon Busuttil on the other, who stays 10 points behind Muscat, gets the trust of 91% of PN voters.

PN cuts lead to four points

While the PN’s support increased by six points since last month, Labour only registered a three-point increase, while undecided respondents fell by 9 points.

There were no significant shifts between the two main parties, with 2% of both PN and PL voters intending to switch sides in May.

The PN consolidated its 2013 vote by 10%, now commanding the support of 85% of these voters. But Labour’s increased by six, from 69% in March to 75% now.

This suggests that the PN is being more successful in mobilising its core voters while making small inroads among switchers (who voted PL in 2013 and PN in 2008): among this category, 11% now intend to vote for the PN.

The good news for Labour is that the percentage of its 2013 voters intent on not voting has shrunk from 11% to 4%, but the percentage of non-voters remains higher among Labour voters, since only 1% of PN voters are intent on not voting.

And 15% of Labour voters are still undecided, compared to just 6% of Nationalist voters, suggesting that the PN starts with a more solid block despite having a restricted vote base.

Additionally, 42% of voters who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013 – switchers – remain undecided, suggesting their allegiance cannot be taken for granted.

Alternattiva Demokratika has recovered the support it had in the last general election (2%), attracting a small segment of switchers and PN voters, while retaining most of its previous voters.

Marlene Mizzi gains ground in Labour camp

Former prime minister Alfred Sant and incumbent MEP Roberta Metsola have consolidated their front-runner status for MEP. The latter’s position amongst PN voters remains unchanged, while Sant increases Labour votes by five points.

In second place are David Casa (PN) and Miriam Dalli (PL) albeit losing some ground in their respective camps.

Among Labour voters, it is Marlene Mizzi who is emerging as the strongest candidate for the third seat, gaining seven points among Labour voters at Dalli’s expense: she now is just two points behind Dalli in the Labour race.

Compared to last month, Mizzi gains seven points among current PL voters at the expense of Miriam Dalli. Mizzi is now just two points behind Dalli in Labour’s race. Clint Camilleri has also made some inroads among Gozitan respondents, while Cyrus Engerer, who shared the third place with Mizzi in last month’s survey, has lost support.

In the PN camp, incumbents Metsola and Casa remain firmly in the lead in this survey, even if Casa has lost seven points. On the other hand, newcomers Therese Comodini Cachia and Norman Vella emerge as the favourites for the party’s possible third seat, replacing Francis Zammit Dimech who occupied this position last month.

Due to the margin of error, it is very difficult to determine the standing of other candidates, and a very large segment of voters remains undecided.

While among Labour voters 36% are undecided, among PN voters the percentage rises to 44%. Moreover these results are only indicative because actual seats will be determined on the basis of second, third and subsequent preferences. Much will depend on how the surplus of the frontrunners will be distributed among the rest of the candidates. 

This means that candidates with a low first count may still overtake stronger candidates who do not manage to attract the second preferences of the frontrunners or the weaker candidates who will be eliminated.

Muscat leads Busuttil by 10 points

Compared to last month, Muscat has seen his trust lead erode by four points while Simon Busuttil’s increase by two.

In this survey, Muscat registers his worst trust rating since October 2013, while  Busuttil registers the best rating since his election as party leader.

The percentage of respondents who trust neither of the two leaders has decreased by four points.

Busuttil improves his standing among 2013 PN voters and makes insignificant inroads among PL voters and switchers, most of which still trust Muscat more than Busuttil.

On the other hand, although Muscat roughly enjoys the same trust rating among Labour voters as last month, the surveys show a five-point increase of Labour respondents who trust neither of the two leaders.

The survey also suggests that voters are more entrenched in their loyalties than last month.  Only 0.5% of 2013 PL voters prefer Busuttil to Muscat; while the percentage of PN voters who prefer Muscat to Busuttil decreased from 7% last month to 3%.

This suggests that the PN has managed to contain any further losses to Muscat’s party.

Due to the small size of the sample of “switchers” represented in the survey, the shifts could reflect a higher margin of error – but the survey confirms previous ones, showing 68% of switchers still preferring Muscat to Busuttil, even if only 37% are sure of voting Labour.

This suggests that a segment of these voters may harbour doubts on renewing their allegiance to Labour, but are still loyal to Muscat.

And while 5% of these voters trust Busuttil more, 11% of the switchers will vote PN in May, suggesting that former PN voters are making the move back to their party… even if 9% trust neither of the two party leaders. This suggests that although the loyalties of this category remain fluid, Muscat is still the preferred leader among this strategic category.

The survey also shows that Busuttil is trusted by 75% of PN voters, while Muscat is trusted by 90% of Labour voters, confirming Muscat’s solid hold in his Labour. Busuttil lost 10 points among the PN category of voters since December.

Significantly, while 83% of PL voters (down from 85% in December) judge Muscat’s performance as prime minister positively, 90% trust him more than Busuttil. This suggests that a section of Labour voters is disenchanted by Muscat’s performance in government, but would still prefer him to Busuttil.

But with Muscat leading Busuttil by 10 points in the trust ratings, and Labour leading by four points, the Prime Minister remains more popular than his own party, a problematic scenario in an election where voters choose MEPs and not the next premier.

So Muscat may well take a more active role in winning votes for his party’s candidates in the next weeks. It might be an effective strategy for switchers that are more loyal to Muscat than to Labour, but this strategy could alienate those Labour voters who have become lukewarm towards the Prime Minister.

Methodology

572 respondents were contacted by telephone between Monday 7 April and Thursday 10 April.  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, ...