MaltaToday survey | PN voter support for Franco Debono plummets to 4%

Labour gains four points since May

james
James Debono
18 June 2012, 12:00am
Debono’s trust rating fell from 44% in March to 26% amongst Labour voters, and PN voters' 42% trust has been almost wiped out, down to 4%.
Debono’s trust rating fell from 44% in March to 26% amongst Labour voters, and PN voters' 42% trust has been almost wiped out, down to 4%.


Maverick Nationalist MP Franco Debono has lost trust among both Labour and Nationalist voters after voting with the Labour Party against Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici, and then supporting the government in a vote of confidence.  The drop in his support could also be linked to the fact that many interpreted his crusade against Mifsud Bonnici as personal.

A MaltaToday survey finds Debono's trust rating falling from 44% in March to 26% amongst Labour voters, and a massive haemorrhage of PN voters whose 42% trust has been almost wiped out down to 4%.

Overall, Debono's trust rating is at 16.4%, down from 34%.

On the other hand, a wave of sympathy for Mifsud Bonnici is now evident, with a relative majority of respondents expressing the view that he did not deserve to be removed from office - including 10% of Labour voters.

This however has not translated into any significant electoral gains for the government. Labour now enjoys a 12-point lead over the PN, while Lawrence Gonzi trails nine points behind Joseph Muscat in the trust barometer - results that come in the wake of Malta's entry into recession and on the eve of Monday's motion, which calls for the resignation of Richard Cachia Caruana as Malta's Permanent Representative to the EU.

Indeed, nearly half of the survey's respondents could not express an opinion on whether Cachia Caruana - who is also a unelected cabinet minister and senior PN strategist - should be removed.

Franco Debono is the main casualty of MaltaToday's latest survey, seeing a 16-point trust decline since November's motion where he abstained on Austin Gatt's resignation as transport minister.

Additionally, the percentage of respondents who don't trust Debono increased by 14 points, which shows the MP now less popular amongst both Labour and Nationalist voters: only 4% of current Nationalist voters trust Debono, while overall 56% of respondents do not trust him at all.

PN voters losing trust in Debono had already fallen by 39 points in November, now further declining by 27 points since March.

This progressive decline suggests that while Debono was still trusted by a significant number of Nationalist voters when he abstained in parliament on the Austin Gatt motion, he lost most of this trust the moment he voted with Labour. 

Debono's subsequent vote in favour of the government was not enough to restore his trust among Nationalist voters.

Then again, one-third of the PN's electorate said Debono had not entirely lost his trust, an increase of 20 points since November 2011.

Isolating the trust rating amongst voters who chose PN in 2008, of these voters 11% trust Debono (this particular group includes voters who intend voting Labour in the next election or are still undecided).

Additionally, the drop in popularity among PN voters has not been compensated with a surge in trust among Labour voters. Last March, Debono saw a surge of 13 points among respondents who say they will vote Labour - now it has slipped again by 19 points, suggesting a substantial number of Labour voters are not entirely comfortable with collusion with Debono on the Mifsud Bonnici motion.

Debono has also seen his favourable trust rating decrease substantially among undecided voters. Among this category, trust in Debono sees his trust rating decrease from 34 points in November to just 10 points now.

Mifsud Bonnici: majority disagree with forced resignation

A relative majority of 41% of respondents think Mifsud Bonnici did not deserve his fate, compared to 25% who felt Mifsud Bonnici had to resign - but a third of respondents were undecided.

Significantly, less than half of current Labour voters think Mifsud Bonnici deserved resigning compared to 11.5% who said he did not deserve resigning.

Then among Labour voters in 2008, the percentage of those who think that Mifsud Bonnici did not deserve his fate rises to 15%.

The fact that 40% of current Labour voters are undecided on whether Mifsud Bonnici deserved being removed from office shows a lack of enthusiasm for the Opposition motion's among its own supporters.

Unsurprisingly, sympathy for Mifsud Bonnici is highest among current PN voters at 86%. Only 3 per cent say the minister had to resign.

Sympathy then declines among voters who chose PN in 2008, where a tenth feel he deserved being removed, suggesting Franco Debono still represents a segment of alienated Nationalist voters.

Sympathy is also high among undecided voters, where 45% disagree with his resignation, suggesting the motion has backfired among the wider electorate.

Majority indifferent over Richard Cachia Caruana

Caruana deserves to be removed from office. Less than a quarter think he deserves to resign, while 27% disagree, suggesting the Opposition's motion has failed to strike a chord with the electorate.

The high number of undecided respondents also suggests most voters are indifferent to the fate of Malta's permanent representative to the European Union. Significantly only 47% were undecided.

Sympathy for Cachia Caruana among Nationalist voters is lower than that registered by Carm Mifsud Bonnici. While 86% of PN voters think that Mifsud Bonnici did not deserve resigning, only 65% think Cachia Caruana should be spared.

The number falls to just over 50% among PN voters in 2008, while 9% think Cachia Caruana should resign, a clear indication of the dislike the perm rep inspires even among a segment of former PN voters.

But the high degree of indifference reflects Cachia Caruana's anonymity, both as a high-ranking civil servant and PN strategist. The parliamentary grilling clearly failed in galvanising enthusiasm for the Opposition's motion, and the prime minister's strong defence of a key political ally worked against the Opposition which was intent in painting Cachia Caruana as the power behind the throne. 

Also, such is the complexity of the diplomatic talk on Partnership for Peace, that it is clear the issue is low on the electorate's agenda.

Labour leads by 12 points



Though the Nationalist party has scored their highest ever score registered in the past year, (25.8%) Labour has gained 4 percentage points in the last month. In fact support for Labour is back to the same levels as March.

This suggests that the PN has not substantially benefited from the sympathy wave for Carm Mifsud Bonnici while Labour has managed to reverse a small decline in support experienced between March and April.

In this way Labour has widened the gap between the two parties from 9.3 points in May to 12.2 in June.

This suggests Labour has been more successful in galvanising its base even if the Nationalist Party has also managed to slightly increase its support. The gains made by both parties come in the wake of a 9-point drop in undecided voters. 

But the survey shows that the swing from the PN to Labour remains at the same levels as last month (7 points). 

In this month's survey, while 10% of PN voters in 2008 say they now would vote Labour, 3% of Labour voters in 2008 say they will vote PN. This suggests that Labour has simply gained ground within its pool of voters.  In fact while in May Labour retained 80% of those who voted for them in 2008, in June the PL retains 87% of its voters. This suggests that the climate in the past weeks has entrenched Labour voters.

For the third consecutive time, Labour loses 3% of its past voters to the PN and for the first time it loses a point to the Greens.

Overall support for the Greens remains at the same levels of the 2008 general election.

Significantly the survey shows an increase in Nationalist voters claiming that they would not vote in a forthcoming election. This comes in the wake of a decrease of Nationalist voters who are still undecided on whom to vote for.

Trust Barometer


Little changes in the trust barometer over the past month, with Muscat gaining half a percentage point over May ratings. Essentially Gonzi has not managed to translate sympathy for Mifsud Bonnici into electoral gains.

Perhaps any gains yielded were neutralised by news of Malta's official entry into recession, a negative impact for a prime minister who prides himself of weathering the international financial storm.

And despite the bad news, the gap between the two leaders remains substantially lower than it was in March. Back than Muscat enjoyed a 14-point lead, now down to less than nine points.

So while the survey shows a 4-point increase for Labour in the electoral barometer, the fact that there were no changes in the trust rating of the two political leaders confirms that Labour has simply consolidated its position among its own voters.

 

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