Italy overtakes England as most supported team in Malta

MaltaToday survey shows Italy are more popular among new generations and anybody aged under 55 years, the university-educated, and PN voters, while England remains more popular among Labour voters and over-55 year olds

james
James Debono
22 June 2014, 7:20am
Last updated on 24 June 2014, 10:08am
Most supported in Malta...
Most supported in Malta...
Neymar - Brazil is this year's hot ticket say respondents to MaltaToday survey
Neymar - Brazil is this year's hot ticket say respondents to MaltaToday survey
Who will win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? | Create Infographics
 

A MaltaToday survey conducted over the past week shows that Italy has overtaken England, by a small margin, as Malta’s favourite football team among the nations battling it out in the World Cup.

Previous surveys conducted by MaltaToday in 2006 and 2010 showed England slightly ahead although Italy was already more popular among younger respondents and university educated respondents.

In fact in this survey although support for England has risen among 18 to 34 year-olds, it declined among the 35 to 55-year-old age bracket.

MaltaToday World Cup Survey 2014 by maltatoday

 

The survey follows similar patterns established in previous surveys, confirming the political divide between pro English Labour voters and pro Italian PN voters.

But over the past eight years support for Italy has also grown considerably among PL voters, while support for England has slightly declined among PN voters.

The survey confirms Manchester United as the international club with the strongest following but this does not necessarily translate into support for the British national team. In fact, 16% of supporters of this club support other national teams.

Football demographics

The 2010 World Cup showed that England supporters outnumbered Italy supporters (34% vs. 31%), confirming a similar three-point gap registered in the 2006 survey. But in the latest survey Italy has overtaken England marginally, by less than a percentage point.

The latest survey shows that while support for the two teams is practically equal among males, Italy enjoys a two-point lead among females.

Moreover while support for Italy has grown by eight points among 35 to 55 year olds, which is the generation that grew following Italian TV, support for England is rising among those aged 18 to 34 - the generation which grew up with cable and satellite TV and the commercialisation of club football dominated by brand names like Manchester United.

In fact, the latest survey showed that the latter are the most popular club in Malta.

While in 2010 in the 18-34 age bracket, 44% supported Italy while 32% supported England, now 44% back Italy while 39% back England. Back in 2006, 46% supported Italy, and only 24% supported England.

On the other hand, among those aged over 55, 39% side with England while only 31% side with Italy. This suggests an increase in support for Italy among the oldest age group as people who grew up watching Italian TV get older while the pre-war generation which remembers Italian planes bombing Malta passes away.

Clearly, although Italy is now ahead, demographic trends which previously favoured Italy in the perennial ‘old firm’ struggle between the former colonial rulers and our Latin neighbours, may be turning in England’s favour as a new generation largely untouched by Italian TV takes over.

Still despite the transformation of football into a globalised spectacle, support remains low for other teams outside the Italy vs England dichotomy.

While support for Brazil has increased slightly since 2010, it declined marginally from 2006. Support for Germany also has declined. The only other team to be mentioned by more than 2% of respondents is Spain, which won major football competitions in the past decade but was eliminated from this edition.

Other teams which were mentioned included France, Argentina and the Netherlands.

Only two respondents mentioned an African team. 

The political duopoly

Sympathy for Italy or for England also runs parallel with the lines of the political duopoly; with the majority of Nationalist party voters supporting Italy and the majority of Labour party supporters supporting England.

Interestingly they do so in equal proportions. While 47% of Nationalist voters support Italy, 46% of Labour voters support England. And while 34% of Labour voters support Italy, 33% of PN voters support England.

But while among PN supporters support for England is slightly less than it was in 2006, support for Italy among Labour voters has increased by a remarkable 13 points.

This may reflect the massive shift which took place in the 2013 general election which saw a massive chunk of Nationalists drifting to Labour. But it could also reflect wider demographics.

Possibly the tendency of Labourites to side with England and of Nationalists to side with Italy could be a legacy of the language questions.

The pique between Anglophiles and Italianates dates back to the early days of Maltese politics, when the ancestors of the modern Nationalist party yearned for unification with the Italian patria and the forerunners of the Labour Party striving for closer ties with the United Kingdom.

The football allegiance seems to have survived later political developments which saw the Labour Party asserting itself as an anti colonial party.

Interestingly, support for Brazil is higher among Labour supporters.

Social divides

Another interesting phenomenon is that university graduates are also more likely to side with Italy than with England.

Previous surveys had also shown support for England greater among blue collar workers and support for Italy higher among professionals.

But interestingly even this social divide is crumbling.

Because while support for Italy has dropped by four points among university educated respondents since 2006, support for Italy among secondary educated respondents has increased by nearly 10 points. This suggests that social mobility may be undermining Italy’s dominance among university educated respondents.

Italy supporters more optimistic

The survey undertaken after Italy’s 2-1 victory over England but before England’s defeat against Uruguay, shows that Italy’s supporters were more optimistic on winning the world cup than England’s local fans. While 29% of Italy fans think their team will win the world cup, only 7% of England’s fans were hopeful that their team will win the tournament.

Brazil is the overall favourite to win the tournament despite the team’s not so convincing showing in the first two matches, which saw the host team struggling to win against Croatia and drawing against Mexico. Germany and Holland, two teams which had a good start, are also seen as favourites to win the tournament.

Methodology

The survey was held between Monday 16 and Wednesday 18 June. 598 respondents were contacted. 450 respondents accepted to be interviewed. The results of the survey were weighed according to the age and sex composition of the Maltese population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.6 percentage points.

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