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How we mapped the Maltese in 2014

Many of us agree with decriminalising first time drug offences, a majority will vote ‘yes’ in referendum to abolish spring hunting, we think traffic was this year’s top concern and the euro emerges as one of the markers of Maltese European identity. By JAMES DEBONO

james
James Debono
31 December 2014, 8:24am
Less popular government but PM retains strong lead on Opposition leader
Less popular government but PM retains strong lead on Opposition leader
European elections 2014: surveys vindicated
  MT Polls (%) Actual %
PL 53 55
PN 43 40
AD 3.7 2.4
Others 1 2.4


MaltaToday surveys correctly identified Alfred Sant as the front runner in MEP elections held in June. MaltaToday also identified Miriam Dalli and Marlene Mizzi as the two other Labour MEPs to be elected and Roberta Metsola as the PN’s front runner followed by David Casa. MaltaToday surveys also indicated a tight race for the PN’s third seat.

An extrapolation of survey results conducted during the previous month showed the PL heading for an absolute majority of between 51% and 55%. Surveys showed that the scale of Labour’s victory depended on a strategic category of voters who right up to the last survey preferred Joseph Muscat to Simon Busuttil but refused to say how they would vote.

Surveys showed that the size of the gap between the two parties depended on the level of abstention in both camps. One major factor which made the gap between the two parties harder to predict was the large number of respondents who trusted Muscat more than Busuttil but remained unsure who to vote for in the MEP elections.

This category represented 6% of respondents in the last MaltaToday survey before the election. MaltaToday surveys showed the PL winning with 55% if this category turned oput to vote for Labour. The result indicates that Labour was more successful in getting its voters out on polling day than the PN.

Maltese favour drug decriminalisation

A survey published in July showed nine out of every 10 respondents agreeing with the proposal made by the government under which drug users carrying small amounts of drugs for personal use will not face proceedings in court. 

Moreover slightly more than half agree with the proposed decriminalisation of cannabis use.

The MaltaToday survey reveals a generational change in attitudes towards cannabis. 

While 70% of under-35-year-olds agree with the proposal to exempt cannabis smokers from court proceedings, a majority of over-35-year-olds are opposed to this aspect of the reform.  

The survey also shows that more than one in every three, within the 16- to 34-years-old bracket knows someone who makes use of cannabis.  

Although public opinion remains split on the proposed decriminalisation of cannabis use, only 14% of respondents think that marijuana is as dangerous as hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. But while respondents are more liberal with regard to drug use, the vast majority still agree with the imprisonment of addicts found guilty of trafficking.

Majority support Spring hunting referendum

 
% of respondents who intend voting for a ban on spring hunting  
June 2013 60
July 2014 44
September 2014 50
October 2014 49


Voting intentions on the Spring hunting referendum showed a massive dip in support for the hunting ban following the MEP elections, from 60% in July 2013 to just 44%.  But support climbed back to 50% in surveys conducted in September and October. A breakdown by age shows that support for the yes camp declines with age from 62% among under 34 year olds to 43% among over-55 year olds. 

A breakdown by sex reveals that females are more inclined to vote for a ban. 

A breakdown by education shows support for the yes camp highest among the university educated (70%) and lowest among those with a secondary (46%) or primary education (34%).

A breakdown by electoral district shows strong support for the yes camp in the ninth, tenth and eleventh districts, which lean towards the Nationalist Party. Gozo is the only district where a relative majority would vote no. The no camp is also strong in the fourth, fifth and sixth districts while abstention is highest in the Labour-leaning first, second and third districts.

The survey shows that three quarters of respondents who voted PN in 2013 would vote against spring hunting while a relative majority of Labour voters (43%) would vote in favour of spring hunting.

Only 35% of Labour voters support the spring hunting ban. Switchers who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013 are split. 

The September survey showed that 60% agreed with the referendum being held, only 30% disagreed. 

In October nearly 60% approved of the government’s decision to suspend autumn hunting.

Malta’s place in the world

In August a MaltaToday survey explored how the Maltese view the rest of the world, finding local admiration for austerity-driven Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Maltese also displayed openness towards China, with 60% approving the partial sale of Enemalta to a Chinese government-owned company.

The survey also showed strong disapproval of Israeli and Russian foreign policies.

When asked to express a preference between six world leaders the Maltese preferred German Chancellor Angela Merkel to US President Barack Obama, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Vladimir Putin was the least liked, surpassed even by the less known Chinese President, Li Xinping.

Despite the Chancellor’s bad reputation in neighbouring Mediterranean nations, German foreign policy was given a 70% approval rating here.

The Maltese were also most likely to side with the West in Ukraine and largely disapproved of Russian foreign policy. But despite a general western orientation in their foreign policy choices, the Maltese strongly disapproved of Israeli foreign policy, which has been traditionally supported by the West.

Moreover despite the West’s traditional support for Israel, only 7% supported Israel in the war in Gaza, which received lukewarm support from the US, whose foreign policy is only deemed positive by 41%. 

The Maltese were lukewarm towards China’s foreign policy, approved by only 38% of respondents, but are open to Chinese investment to the extent that 60% approved an agreement through which a Chinese state owned company would buy a 33% stake in Enemalta. 

The Maltese were divided when asked whether Malta should emulate Dubai’s model when it comes to development, as recently suggested by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat,

A survey of attitudes towards 15 countries also revealed that Germany is admired for being disciplined and economically stable and that Sweden is more known in Malta for its blondes than for its gender equality and welfare state.

Azerbaijan is more known for hosting the Eurovision two years ago than for its role in supplying gas to the new power station. 

Moreover Ebola was considered one of the major threats to world security even if the spread of the disease has so far been limited to poor countries with an inadequate health system.

Maltese identity

Language is what makes us Maltese, food is what makes us Mediterranean and the use of the euro currency is what makes us European.

This emerged from a survey conducted in September on the occasion of Malta’s 50th independence anniversary.

Respondents were asked to mention up to three characteristics constituting their Maltese, European and Mediterranean identities.

The survey revealed that more than 1 in 4 could not give an answer when asked to mention at least one characteristic which makes them European.

Only slightly more than 1 in 10 could not mention a characteristic of Mediterranean identity even if 40% replied by associating Mediterranean identity with simply being surrounded by the sea. Only 1% could not define their Maltese identity.

Government’s popularity 

A MaltaToday survey conducted in October showed a sharp dip in the approval rating of most ministers but the trust barometer still showed Muscat enjoying a strong 14-point lead over opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

Amid increased concern on traffic congestion, Transport Minister Joe Mizzi hit rock bottom, dropping from a solid approval rate of 52% in February to just 25% in October.

Sharp drops are also registered by Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi (minus 13 points), Environment Minister Leo Brincat (minus 12 points), Finance Minister Edward Scicluna (minus 11 points), Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech (minus 10 points) and Home Affairs Minister Manwel Mallia (minus nine points).

The survey showed that while the government as a whole is less popular than it was in February, Muscat still retained a solid lead over opposition leader Simon Busuttil before the shooting incident involving the driver of sacked Minister Manuel Mallia.

Traffic becomes major concern

 
  March November Change
Traffic 7 23 +16
Immigration 17.3 21.2 +3.9
Inflation 12 12.8 +0.8
Jobs 21 7.2 -13.8
COLA 0 7.2 +7.2
Energy Energy 6.8 +4.4


 

Two surveys on public concerns were held in March and November. Respondents were asked in a survey to mention the two main problems facing the country.

 

For the first time since 2006 traffic became the top concern of the Maltese.

Although concern on traffic overtook that on migration in November, unease about the latter has also increased by four points.

While in March only 7% mentioned traffic as one of the two main problems facing the country, the percentage increased to a comparably staggering 23% in November.

Moreover 6% and 5% of respondents mentioned roads and public transport respectively.

The survey showed that 30% of respondents mentioned at least one situation related to transport. 

On the other hand the survey shows jobs concern going down sharply from 21% to just 7%.

While concern on the cost of living has gone up slightly over March, 7.2% of respondents expressed unease about the pre-announced Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) of 58 cents. 

In the wake of delays on the new power station, worry about energy issues has also shot up from 3% in March to 7%.

Concern on the environment (mostly on development issues) has gone down by four points. On the other hand for the first time 4% expressed unease about a decline in retail trade.

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