[FULL DATA] MaltaToday survey and Trust Barometer

Recent political events and the increased likelihood of an early election have not significantly altered the political balance, with Labour retaining its strong lead over the PN.

james
James Debono
23 January 2012, 12:00am
Lawrence Gonzi still manages to narrow trust gap with Joseph Muscat to 4 points.
Lawrence Gonzi still manages to narrow trust gap with Joseph Muscat to 4 points.


 

In the face of a direct challenge to his leadership from backbencher Franco Debono, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has seen his trust rating reaching its highest levels since 2008 in what could by an indication of PN voters closing ranks around their leader on the eve of a crucial confidence vote in parliament next week.

The big swing

The survey not only puts Labour in the lead but shows a 7-point swing from the PN to the PL, thus confirming a similar trend in previous MaltaToday surveys which have consistently shown the PN losing 6% to 10% of its voters in 2008.

Respondents were asked to state their present voting intention and for which party they had voted for in the 2008 election. They were also asked to state which political leader they trust most.

Significantly, while 9% of Nationalist voters in 2008 now intend to vote for the PL, less than 2% of Labour voters in 2008 intend to vote for the PN now.

This indicates a massive 7-percentage point swing from the PN to the PL.

A similar swing was registered in last November's survey. This is an indication that recent political events have not reduced the haemorrhage of voters from the PN to the PL.

A further 11% of PN voters in 2008 will not vote if an election is held now. Only 1% of PL voters will not vote in the next election. A further 22% of PN voters in 2008 undecided while only 17% of PL voters are in the same position.

But judging by replies on which political leader they trust, a significant portion of PN voters in 2008, who are presently either undecided or intend on not voting, will return to the fold.

In fact, while only 58% of past PN voters are presently certain that they will vote PN in the next election, 74% prefer Gonzi to Muscat. 

But the PN still has to contend with 9% of its 2008 vote cohort, which prefer Muscat to Gonzi. On the other hand, only 3% of PL voters in 2008 prefer Gonzi to Muscat. 

The greater solidity of the PL's voting base is confirmed by the fact that 85% of Labour voters in 2008 prefer Muscat to Gonzi.

This suggests that the PN can only win the next election if it stops the haemorrhage of votes or by compensating these losses through massive gains among new voters.



The state of the parties

The survey confirms that both the Nationalist Party has gained ground over the past months but not enough to narrow Labour's lead. In fact the survey shows the PN gaining a staggering 10 points since June 2011 when the party's support dipped to its lowest levels after the divorce referendum. But despite these advances,  the PL still retains a 9-point lead over the PN.

The PL, which reached a peak of 38% in the aftermath of the divorce referendum, is now attracting the support of 35% of respondents, an increase of 4 points from November.

The survey shows the PN as being weakest in the 35-to-54 age bracket where its support falls to 23% where the highest number of non-voters is found. The Labour Party is strongest among those aged over 55 years of age and weakest among those aged between 18 and 34.

Alternattiva Demokratika enjoys the same level of support it had in 2008 and roughly the same support it enjoyed in surveys held over the past year. The survey shows AD retaining about half its 2008 voters. These losses were compensated with small gains among PN voters, non-voters and new voters. As happened in most previous surveys, AD does not attract any 2008 Labour voters.

The state of the leaders

Since June 2011 Lawrence Gonzi has also seen his trust rating improve by a staggering 11 points from just 24% to 35%. The PN leader has now managed to reduce the trust gap between him and Joseph Muscat to just 4 percentage points. Gonzi now enjoys his highest trust rating since 2008.

Interestingly, while support for the PN increased by just 2 points since November, in the same period trust in Gonzi has increased by a staggering 4 points.  This could reflect increased sympathy for the PN leader after Franco Debono challenged his leadership.

Muscat has also seen his trust rating increase to 39% the second highest ever in a MaltaToday survey.

The survey confirms that both leaders are more popular than their parties. While Gonzi is 9 points more popular than the PN, Muscat is 4 points more popular than the PL.  This suggests that the 9 point gap between the two major parties could be substantially narrowed if the PN recovers the support of all those who prefer Gonzi to Muscat.  But unlike the last general election when Gonzi always enjoyed higher trust ratings than Alfred Sant, Muscat still enjoys a higher trust rating than Muscat, as was the case in all MaltaToday surveys since 2008. 

This suggests that in the absence of a sudden erosion of trust in Muscat before the next election, the PN cannot bank on Gonzi's trust ratings to win the next election, as was the case in 2008 when it embarked on the GonziPN campaign. While Gonzi remains a pull factor for many potential PN voters, he is still unable to dent Muscat's popularity.

Trust in both leaders is weakest among those aged between 35 and 54. Among this age group, 24% trust neither of the two leaders. 

The big issue

Respondents were also asked to state the most important issue of the forthcoming election. The issues which were most frequently brought up were stability and whether there needs to be a change in government in the country. 

While stability was the main issue for Nationalist voters, change was the most mentioned issue by Labour voters. The cost of living, the economy and utility bills were the most mentioned material issue. Surprisingly, only 2% think that the honoraria issue will be the main one.  Corruption was only mentioned as a main issue by 1%. On the other hand, 5% of respondents think that Franco Debono will be the main issue of the election. This was more the case with PN voters who were more likely to think that Franco Debono will be the main theme of the campaign.

Comparison with The Sunday Times survey

A survey conducted by MISCO for the Sunday Times showed the PL leading the PN by 4 percentage points and Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi enjoying the same level of trust.

The Sunday Times survey based on a 500-respondent sample, was held a week before the one conducted by MaltaToday which was based on 700 respondents.

The MaltaToday survey and The Sunday Times survey concur on the level of support for both the PN and Gonzi.

While the PN registers 25.2% in the Sunday Times survey, the PN registers 25.5% in the Sunday Times survey.  And while Lawrence Gonzi enjoys the trust of 34.6% in The Sunday Times survey, he enjoys the trust of 34.8% in the MaltaToday survey.

Both surveys also agree on the level of support enjoyed by AD.

Where the two surveys differ in on the level of support for the Labour Party and its leader Joseph Muscat.

While the PL scores 29.5% in The Sunday Times survey, support for the PL in the MaltaToday goes up to 34.5%.  And while Muscat enjoyed the trust of 32.3% in The Sunday Times survey, his support goes up to 38.9% in the MaltaToday survey.

The reason for this discrepancy could be the lower number of Labour voters in The Sunday Times's sample. In fact, while 39.5% of respondents in The Times's survey had voted PN in 2008, only 27.4% had voted PL.  In the MaltaToday survey, 38.1% had voted PN while 34% had voted PL.

In actual fact, in 2008, the difference between the two parties amounted to less than a percentage point.

Respondents in both surveys were randomly selected. The prevalence of PN voters in both surveys indicates that Labour leaning respondents are less likely than Nationalist leaning respondents to express their voting intentions. 

But while Nationalist voters prevailed by a staggering 12 points, in the MaltaToday survey, Nationalist voters prevailed by 4 points.

Therefore the wider gap between the two parties in the MaltaToday survey can be attributed to the increased likelihood of Labour-leaning voters to participate in its survey. All respondents who were interviewed for the survey were told that the survey is conducted by MaltaToday. 

The two surveys also concur on the swing of voters from the Nationalist Party to the Labour Party. While the Sunday Times survey puts the swing at 5.8 points, the MaltaToday survey puts the swing at 7 percentage points.

Methodology

The survey was held between Monday 16 and Thursday 19 January. A total of 1391 respondents were randomly chosen from telephone directories. The survey was stopped when a 700 quota of completed questionnaires was reached. The results of the survey were weighed to reflect the age and sex balance of the population as established in the 2010 demographic review issued by the National Office of Statistics. The survey has a margin of error of /-3.7%.

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