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[SURVEY] The gap narrows but Labour still in lead, Gonzi trust rating up
Joseph Muscat leads Gonzi by seven points | PL retains nine-point advantage over the PN |PN closes gap by five points since March when the PL led by staggering 14 points.
21 May 2012, 12:00am
PN continues to reduce swing to Labour
At 25%, the PN has recovered the level of support it had in January, when the party was faced with the prospect of an early election.
On the other hand, with the exception of a spike in support before March's local council elections, support for Labour has remained stable over the past months between 34% and 35%.
Support for the greens also remained stable at 1.5%, slightly higher than the level of support enjoyed by AD in the 2003 general election. With the exception of a spike in support before local elections in March, support for the greens has hovered between 1.1% and 1.5% over the past year.
Respondents were also asked for which party they had voted in 2008.
A comparison between present voting intentions and past voting records still shows a substantial shift of voters from the PN to Labour.
While 10% of respondents who voted PN in 2008 would now vote Labour, 3.4% of PL voters in 2008 would now vote PN. This results in a 6.6-point swing from PN to PL.
This suggests that although the swing to Labour remains substantial, the PN has partly reduced the haemorrhage.
In fact, the percentage of PN voters intent on voting Labour next time round has decreased from 12% in March to 10% now.
Significantly, the number of PL voters intent on voting PN next time round has increased from a sheer 1% in March to 3.4% now. This is the highest shift from PL to PN registered in the past months, up from 2.9% in April.
This suggests that although the swing to Labour remains substantial, for the second consecutive time the PN is partly compensating its losses to Labour by attracting a smaller number of 2008 Labour voters.
In the face of a massive and consistent swing from the PN to Labour, attracting some support from former Labour voters and winning a majority of new voters is vital for the PN's chances.
Moreover, since April the number of PN voters in 2008 who intend not to vote in the next election has dropped by three points.
But the Labour vote remains more compact than the Nationalist voter. While 80% of Labour voters in 2008 declare that they would vote for the PL again, only 61% of PN voters in 2008 would vote for their party again.
Gonzi recovers lost ground
Overall, Muscat still enjoys a substantial eight-point advantage over Gonzi when respondents were asked which of the two leaders they trust most.
But after peaking with a trust rating of 44% in March before the local council elections, Muscat's popularity has dipped following the Easter break and the subsequent vote in parliament.
Muscat, who had already lost four points between March and April, has lost another point in the past month. But Muscat still registers a higher trust rating than that registered in January.
One worrying sign for Muscat is the four-point increase in the percentage of Labour voters in 2008, who now trust neither of the two political leaders.
On the other hand, although Gonzi has seen his trust rating increase substantially over past month, his popularity remains significantly lower than the record 35% registered in January, when the country seemed to be heading for an imminent general election after Franco Debono openly called for the Prime Minister's resignation.
Subsequently, Gonzi's popularity dipped by six points as the government survived a confidence vote thanks to the Speaker's casting vote, and the PM embarked on an unpopular one-man contest in his party.
But the latest survey result indicates that Gonzi is back in the loop, scoring his second-best trust rating since 2008 and closing the gap with the Opposition leader.
One bad omen for the PM is that the percentage of former PN voters who trust Muscat more than Gonzi is slightly higher than the number of former PN voters who would now vote Labour.
While 10% of PN voters in 2008 would now vote Labour, nearly 12% trust Muscat more than Gonzi.
On the other hand, while 3.4% of 2008 PL voters would vote PN now, 4% prefer Gonzi to Muscat.
The survey shows that while Gonzi has seen his trust rating increase among non-committed voters, a category includes those who intend not to vote in the forthcoming election, those who are undecided and those who would not reveal their voting intentions.
This could be an indication that a number of voters who have not yet made up their mind about who to vote for in the next election are inclined to trust the Nationalist Party leader. This suggests that the gap between the two parties will be narrowed as trust in Gonzi is translated in support for the PN as the election approaches. But this could not be enough to compensate for the shift of voters from the PN to Labour.
Among this strategic category, while Gonzi has seen his trust rating increase by five points, Muscat has lost three points since April.
The survey confirms that both leaders are more popular than their respective parties. While 25% would vote for the PN, 32% have a greater trust in Gonzi. Moreover, while 34% would vote for the Labour Party, nearly 40% prefer Muscat to Gonzi.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has seen his trust rating increase by four points after surviving a decisive budget implementation bill, which saw his government re-compacting its parliamentary majority after rebel backbencher Franco Debono voted with the government and softened his stance.
Voters have rewarded Gonzi's decision to call Debono's bluff, where the PM forced a vote on 9 May before forthcoming votes of censure in Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, as initially requested by Debono.
On the other hand, Joseph Muscat has practically retained the same level of trust as last month, losing less than a point. But Muscat has seen a six-point dip in his trust rating since March.
But the eight-point gap between the two leaders could still be too wide to be ever overturned by the Prime Minister, who clearly starts the race as the underdog.
Gonzi remains in the loop after closing the gap by more than six points since March.
Significantly, the trust gap between the two leaders is smaller than that between the two parties, which stands at nearly 10 points.
The survey was held between Monday 14 May and Thursday 17 May. 854 respondents were randomly chosen from on-line and printed telephone directories, 600 persons accepted to be interviewed. The results of the survey were weighed to reflect the gender and age balance found in the 2010 demographic review. The survey has a margin of error of /-4%.
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...