MaltaToday survey • Labour in six-point lead

Labour leads by 6 points, down one point from 18 May thanks to a greater mobilisation of PN voters ahead of next Saturday’s election. Busuttil also gains 3 points in trust barometer but Muscat still leads by 13 points. Survey suggests 10-point lead for Labour if undecided who prefer Muscat to Busuttil opt for Labour in final days.

james
James Debono
22 May 2014, 9:30am
Joseph Muscat retains his lead in MaltaToday's latest poll, but there are obvious shifts to other parties from his 2013 voters.
Joseph Muscat retains his lead in MaltaToday's latest poll, but there are obvious shifts to other parties from his 2013 voters.
MaltaToday survey • 22 May | Create Infographics
The latest MaltaToday survey on voting intentions for the MEP elections due next Saturday shows the PL leading by 6 points, 1 point down from last week.

While the PN gained a point, the PL retained the same support as last week. The Greens are now almost at 3%, more than double the support they enjoyed in March.

Both major parties have consolidated their position among core voters. But while 86% of PN voters in the 2013 general election will vote PN again, 81% of PL voters are sure to vote PL again.

But one major unknown is how undecided Labour voters who trust Muscat more than Busuttil will vote on Saturday.

The survey indicates that if Labour wins back these voters it will  be 10 points ahead of the PN.

But the same survey held among 600 respondents, shows Simon Busuttil narrowing the trust gap between him and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, from 16 points last week  to 13 points.

This suggests that Muscat’s challenge to Busuttil to turn these elections into a contest between the two leaders may have not resonated well with the electorate.

Overall the survey shows no shift between the two parties as both parties make equal gains from the opposite camp.

But among switchers (respondents who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013), Labour loses 10 points to the PN and AD respectively.

The survey shows that Joseph Muscat’s constant appeals directed towards Labour voters to vote for his party on May 24 have not paid off entirely. Although less past Labour voters are undecided, the percentage of PL voters who intend not to vote has nearly doubled in the past week. Nearly 6% of Labour voters in the last election now say that they are not voting. Only 1% of PN voters say that they will not vote.

But the PN also faces apathy among a category of its past voters. In fact 6% of PN voters in 2013 are still undecided on who to vote for and 4% won’t reveal their voting intentions.

The survey still shows Alfred Sant and Roberta Metsola leading the two respective camps.  In the Labour camp Marlene Mizzi and Miriam Dalli enjoy the same level of support. 

David Casa is the only other clear favourite in the PN camp followed by a number of candidates who enjoy practically the same level of support.

PN consolidates its support

The survey indicates that over the past days the PN has managed to mobilise more of its past voters. In fact the percentage of PN voters in 2013 who intend to vote PN again has risen from 81% to 86%.

The PL has also seen its support among its 2013 voters rise from 79% to 81%.

This indicates that the final week the two parties have mobilised more of their voters .

The survey also shows AD increasing its support to nearly 3% while the far right garners 1% of voting intentions. AD retains most of its 2013 supporters while benefitting from small shifts from the two major parties. A tenth of switchers would also vote for the Greens while a tenth have returned to their party of origin, the PN.

Significantly the survey shows the PL retaining the support of only 30% of switchers but 40% of this strategic category remain undecided just days before elections.

The number of undecided and non-voters in both camps is practically the same; 11% of PL voters and 10% of PN voters.

But while 6% of PL voters intend not to vote only 1% of PN voters intend to do likewise.

The survey suggests that there are more potential Labour voters than PN voters among undecided voters. 

In fact while undecided voters who trust Busuttil more than Muscat account for only 2% of respondents, those who trust Muscat more than Busuttil but are still undecided account for 6% of respondents. This suggests that the PL can still widen the gap to 10 points if it manages to appeal to the segment of undecided voters who prefer Muscat.

It is the uncertainty of  category of traditional Labour voters who still trust Muscat more than Busuttil but are not sure on whether to vote on May 24 which is troubling Labour strategists. It was probably concern over these voters which prompted Muscat to appeal for the support of the party’s “soldiers of steel”. But while this rhetoric may appeal to disgruntled traditional labourites, switchers may be actually turned off by Mintoffian phraseology.

Winning back  this variegated category is considered crucial in the party’s bid to reconfirm its 2013 majority and deal a lethal blow to the PN opposition. A repeat of the 2013 victory would not only cement Labour’s political hegemony but would give legitimacy to more difficult and controversial decisions in the months following the election.

On the other hand if the PN manages to cut Labour’s 12 point lead substantially, the PL risks facing a reinvigorated opposition which would have more wind in its sail. As things stand, the scale of Labour’s victory depends on the percentage of PL voters who turn up to vote. It is in this context that PN leader Simon Busuttil has been targeting disgruntled Labour voters as well as disillusioned switchers by inviting them to show Muscat a yellow card for disappointing their expectations.

While the PN starts the race with the advantage of attracting more of its core voters than the PL, the survey shows that the end result will depend on Muscat’s ability to mobilise labour leaning voters in the last days  of the campaign.

Busuttil comes out of his shell

Busuttil has seen a 2-point increase from last week’s 31% trust rating to climb back to more respectable 33%. On the other hand Muscat’s trust rating has decreased by 2 points to 46%.

Apart from inevitable fluctuations in the survey’s margin of error, this suggests that Busuttil’s popularity has recovered from the set back registered in the polls following his party’s collective abstention on the civil union bill.

The survey indicates that Busuttil is now slightly more popular than his party. On the other hand Muscat remains considerably more popular than his party. 

In fact while Busuttil registers a trust rating of 33%, support for the PN is at 32%. On the other hand while 38% intend to vote for the PL, 46% trust Muscat more than Busuttil.

This indicates that most disgruntled Labour voters who may not be keen on voting next Saturday  have not lost their trust in Muscat. It also shows that any PN gains may be ephemeral if Labour manages to catch up with its leader.

Both leaders command the loyalty of the absolute majority of their respective voters. While 86% of PN voters trust Busuttil more than Muscat, 90% of PL voters trust Muscat more than Busuttil.

No favourite for third PN seat

The survey shows former Labour leader Alfred Sant and incumbent MEP Roberta Metsola retaining their position as the front runners of their respective parties. 

The survey shows a tie for the runner up position in the Labour camp between newcomer Miriam Dalli and incumbent Marlene Mizzi. 

Both Mizzi and Dalli enjoy a wide lead over other Labour candidates. Although Sant, Mizzi, and Dalli are emerging as the favourites for Labour’s probable 3 seats, other candidates could return in the game if they benefit from significant vote transfers from Alfred Sant.

In the PN camp in this survey the two incumbents (Metsola and Casa) remain firmly in the lead. The last  survey shows no clear favourite for the party’s probable third seat.

AD candidate Arnold Cassola emerges as the sixth most preferred candidate in the survey. But his chances to get elected are slim as candidates from the bigger parties can rely on a greater pool of second, third and subsequent preferences.

Due to the margin of error it is very difficult to determine the standing of other candidates and a very large segment of voters remains undecided. Moreover these results are only indicative because actual seats will be determined on the basis of second, third and subsequent preferences. Much will depend on how the surplus of the front-runners will be distributed among the rest of the candidates. 

This means that candidates with a low first count may still overtake stronger candidates who do not manage to attract the second preferences of the front-runners and eliminated weaker candidates.

 

Methodology

983  respondents were contacted by telephone between Monday 19 May and Wednesday 21 May.  600 accepted to be interviewed.  The results of the survey were weighed to reflect the age and gender balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4%.

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