MaltaToday survey | Labour maintains lead over PN

MaltaToday survey | 9% swing confirmed from PN to PL.

james
James Debono
5 September 2012, 12:00am
Joseph Muscat's Labour Party has kept a healthy lead on the PN.
Joseph Muscat's Labour Party has kept a healthy lead on the PN.
Billboards do not stop PN's haemorrhage | Labour vote stable | PN leads among graduates

A summer dominated by the clash of the billboards, the ongoing Franco Debono saga, the coalition agreement with Pullicino Orlando and finally the death of the great patriarch of Maltese politics Dom Mintoff has not altered the political landscape.

In fact, a MaltaToday poll among 500 respondents conducted between Monday and Wednesday confirms the 9-point swing from the PN to the PL registered in a survey held in July.

The only change since July is that both major parties register slight 2-percentage point dip in support. This comes in the wake of a 7-point increase in the number of undecided respondents.

Both party leaders register a 4-percentage dip in their trust rating. This may well be an indication of political fatigue and a decrease in interest in politics during the summer months.



Billboards do not stop PN's haemorrhage

The survey confirms that that the PN has not in any way stopped the haemorrhage of votes, which sees it losing 12% of its voters in 2008 to Labour and a further 2% to the Greens.

On the other hand, the PL only loses a sheer 1% of its 2008 voters to the PN and nothing to the Greens.

This means that, effectively, there is 9-point shift from the Nationalist Party to the Labour Party. This shift has been consistent for the past year in an indication that the PN's attempt to erode voters' trust in Labour culminating in 'Labour won't work' billboard have so far failed to make an impact.  

While Labour retains 87% of its 2008 election voters, a small drop from the 90% registered in the July survey, the PN only manages to hold on to 64% of its 2008 voters - down 7 points since July.

This suggests that the summer lull has a more marked impact on Nationalist voters. 

Even more worrying for the party is a marked increase in PN voters intent on not voting. While the percentage of respondents who intend not to vote in the next election has decreased, among Nationalist voters in 2008, the percentage of non-voters has actually shot up by 6 points. 

The survey shows that 50% of respondents who would not vote in the next election had voted for PN in the past election. Only 15% had voted Labour while 21% had not voted in the 2008 election.

Most worrying for the PN is the fact that even if the party manages to recover all of its 2008 voters who now intend not to vote or are still undecided, it would still be trailing Labour by 8 points. This suggests that the party is facing an uphill battle. For while in 2008 - when the party was trailing Labour by 6 to 7 points - recovering past PN voters intent on not voting was enough to win the election by whisker, this time around the party faces a dire reality which sees a tenth of its voters deserting it to Labour.

One key factor to consider is whether respondents who indicate that they have switched sides in the polls will actually vote Labour in a real election.

Labour vote stable

On the other hand, the nostalgia evoked by the Mintoff funeral might have helped the PL to keep enthusiasm among some of its core supporters during the summer lull.

Another positive trend for Labour is that it has managed to contain a small haemorrhage of votes to the PN. While in April it lost 3% of its 2008 voters to the PN, it now loses less than 1% of its voters.

In fact, the party retains the support of 87% of its supporters in 2008 while winning over 10% of the PN's 2008 voters.

The survey indicates that Mintoff's death has left little impact on Labour's electoral strength. Neither has the party's association with the controversial figure dented its inroads among past Nationalist voters.

In fact, the only difference since July was a 6-point increase in undecided 2008 Labour voters.

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PN leads among graduates

The survey also shows a sharp divide between University-educated respondents who still lean towards the PN and respondents who did not complete their education beyond the secondary and primary level leaning towards Labour. Those with a post-secondary education are evenly split between the two major parties.

In fact, the PN enjoys the support of 33% of respondents who attended university against a mere 14% who support Labour. Moreover, while 41% within this category  register their trust in Lawrence Gonzi, only 16% trust Muscat.

But this does not mean that the PN does not face problems among graduates. In fact,  this traditionally PN-friendly group registers the highest number of respondents intent on not voting in the next election. A fifth (20%) of university-educated respondents would not vote if an election is held now. 

Recovering this category of disillusioned voters is now crucial for the Nationalist Party.

The Greens also manage to register a respectable 6% among University graduates. In fact, support for the Greens seems to be restricted graduates. The survey shows no support for the Greens among those with a primary or secondary level of education.

The survey reveals that respondents who followed a post-secondary course without ever attending university are evenly split between the two parties. 

In fact, both major parties score 28% among post secondary educated respondents and Gonzi slightly beats Muscat by two points in the trust barometer.

This category also registers the highest percentage of undecided respondents. In fact, 37% of post-secondary educated respondents would not say for which party they would vote for if an election is held now. 

This suggests that the post-secondary educated group - which includes past students in vocational colleges, MCAST and Junior College - will have a major say in determining the next election.

The Labour Party enjoys its highest support among those with the lowest level of education, which could reflect the party's working class roots. Among those with a primary education, the PL already enjoys the support of 45%. Among this group, Labour leader Joseph Muscat's trust rating surpasses the 51% mark.

Among those with a secondary level of education, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is only trusted by 28% while his rival Muscat is trusted by 43%. Significantly, the highest number of respondents who distrust both leaders is found among those with a university or a post-secondary education.

Methodology

The survey was held between Monday 27 and Wednesday 29 August. 772 respondents were contacted by telephone after being chosen from telephone directories.  500 accepted to be interviewed. The results of the survey were weighed to reflect the age and gender balance of the population according to the 2010 demographic review issued by the National Office of Statistics.  The survey has a margin of error of /-4.4%.

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