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[SURVEY] Labour enjoys 8-point lead, Sant in pole-position for MEP

Campaign start for MEP elections sees Labour widening lead from four to eight points, as Simon Busuttil loses six points in trust rating after abstaining in civil unions vote. Electoral fatigue sees increase in respondents who are either undecided or who refused to reveal voting intentions

james
James Debono
5 May 2014, 8:44am
The PN has seen a drop in its support in polls, due to an increase in undecided voters.
The PN has seen a drop in its support in polls, due to an increase in undecided voters.
The third MaltaToday survey on voting intentions for elections for the European Parliament due on May 24 shows the PL leading the PN by 8 points, up from 4 points last month.

This suggests that the PL has reversed losses in last April’s survey, which saw the gap between the PL and PN reduced from 7 points in March to just 4 points.

The survey confirms Alfred Sant as Labour’s front-runner for the race but for the first time shows incumbent Marlene Mizzi in second place before newcomer Miriam Dalli. 

Among PN voters, Roberta Metsola and David Casa are clear favourites, with no clear favourite emerging for a possible third seat for the party.

The increase in Labour’s lead can be attributed to an increase in undecided respondents, which is equivalent to the PN’s losses in the survey.

Moreover, the percentage of PN voters in 2013 who are now undecided has increased by 4 points since last month.

The survey also shows PN leader Simon Busuttil losing 6 points in his trust rating and a 16-point gap between the two leaders, up from 10 last month.

Moreover, although only 1% of 2013 PN voters intend changing their vote to Labour on May 24, 6% of these voters have more trust in Muscat than in Busuttil.

The survey was held after the PN’s controversial abstention on civil unions and the start of the electoral campaign.  This indicates that the party’s abstention on the bill has disoriented a segment of PN voters. For the first time, the party is also experiencing a small shift to Alternattiva Demokratika.

The survey shows no significant shifts from PL to PN and vice versa and both parties are still struggling to recover their full 2013 voting base.  The survey shows both parties recovering 80% of their 2013 vote base.

But the survey shows a small decrease in segment of Labour voters who are still undecided or intent on not voting in next May’s election and an increase in this segment among PN voters.

The survey indicates that if Labour manages to motivate more of its 2013 voters, the party’s lead could be even greater.

PL enjoys 8 point lead

While the PN has seen its support decrease by 6 points since last month, the PL has lost one percentage point.

Surprisingly, two weeks after the start of the campaign, both major parties have lost some support amidst an increase in undecided voters and respondents who would not reveal their intention. 

This could suggest that a segment of the electorate is not enticed by a full blown electoral campaign where political parties are organising daily activities.

The survey also shows small gains by AD, which is attracting a small 3-point shift from the PN and a smaller 1-point shift from the PL.

The survey shows no significant shifts between the two main parties. In fact, only 1% of PN voters and 1% of PL voters in 2013 intend switching sides.

But compared to last month, the percentage of PN voters in 2013 who intend to vote PN again in May has decreased by 5 points.

This was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the percentage of undecided voters in the cohort of PN voters in the last general election.

This reverses the gains experienced by the party in the last survey, which saw the percentage of PN voters intent on voting again increase by 10 points from March.

This suggests that recent political events, like the abstention on the civil union bill, have demoralised a segment of PN voters.

On the other hand, the percentage of PL voters in 2013 who intend to vote for the PL again on 24 May has increased by 4 points. This means that support among the PL’s 2013 cohort of voters has increased from 69% in March to 79% now.

While the PN started the race with the advantage of attracting more of its core voters than the PL, the survey now shows both parties attracting around 80% of their 2013 voters.

This suggests that Joseph Muscat’s constant appeals to the party’s core voters – whom he referred to as the ‘soldiers of steel’ during his May Day address – is paying off.

But the PL still has to convince 4% of its voters who have already decided not to vote in MEP elections. Less than 2% of PN voters are of the same opinion.

But the percentage of Labour voters intent on not voting has shrunk from 11% in March to 4% now.

Moreover, the survey shows an increase in the number of switchers who intend to vote Labour again. 50% (up from 37%) of voters who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013 have decided to vote PL again.  

Marlene Mizzi surpasses Dalli in Labour camp

The survey shows former Labour leader Alfred Sant and incumbent MEP Roberta Metsola retaining their position as the front runners of their respective parties. 

While Metsola’s has lost 2 points, Sant registers a 3-point decrease.

But the survey shows Miriam Dalli losing ground in the Labour camp, being surpassed by incumbent Marlene Mizzi, who was just 2 points behind in the last month’s survey. 

Both Mizzi and Dalli enjoy a wide lead over other Labour candidates. Although Sant, Mizzi and Dalli are emerging as the favourites for Labour’s probable three seats, other candidates could return in the game if they benefit from vote transfers from Alfred Sant.

The survey also suggests that Clint Camilleri retained his support among Gozitan respondents.

In the PN camp, in this survey the two incumbents (Metsola and Casa) remain firmly in the lead. This month’s survey shows a three-way race between Therese Comodini Cachia, Norman Vella and Francis Zammit Dimech for the party’s possible third seat.

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. 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 front runners 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 front runners and eliminated weaker candidates.

Muscat leads Busuttil by 16 points

Compared to last month, Muscat has seen his trust lead increase by 6 points. While Muscat retains the same rating as last month Simon Busuttil has seen his trust rating decreasing by 6 points.

The survey suggests that Busuttil has lost some of the inroads he made during the past months, during which he saw his trust rating increase from 26% in June 2013 to 34% in April.

At 28% Busuttil now enjoys the same trust rating he enjoyed in March.

In an indication of disillusionment with the political system, the percentage of respondents who trust neither of the two leaders has increased by 5 points. 

The survey sees Busuttil enjoying the trust of 82% of PN voters, but making little or no inroads among PL voters and switchers.

On the other hand, Muscat, who enjoys the trust of 92% of PL voters, is more trusted than Busuttil by 6% of PN voters in 2013 up from 3% last month.

This suggests that Muscat is still making inroads in the PN’s restricted vote base.  This suggests that another segment of PN voters could shift to Labour in the future even if only 1% of PN voters in 2013 intend to vote Labour on May 24. 

Muscat to Busuttil has decreased from 7% last month to 3%.

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

Moreover while 50% of switchers intend voting Labour again, 66% of switcher trust Muscat more than Busuttil.

The survey confirms previous ones showing around two thirds of switchers (68%) still preferring Muscat to Busuttil.

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

On the other hand, only 11% of switchers trust Busuttil more than Muscat – the same amount who would vote PN in the May election. 

Methodology

602 respondents were contacted by telephone between Monday 28 April and Thursday 30 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, ...