MaltaToday Survey | Majority supported hunting season closure after Stork killing

Majority want spring hunting referendum to be held with next year’s local election

james
James Debono
12 October 2014, 10:00am
Last updated on 13 October 2014, 7:52am
Hunters charged with an illegal protest against the Prime Minister's temporary stoppage to the autumn season being taken to court: nearly 60% approved of the action, arbitrary though it was.
Hunters charged with an illegal protest against the Prime Minister's temporary stoppage to the autumn season being taken to court: nearly 60% approved of the action, arbitrary though it was.
Spring Hunting Referendum | Create Infographics
Nearly 60% approve of the government’s decision to suspend autumn hunting. The survey also shows that an absolute majority of 59% of respondents want the spring hunting referendum to be held on the same day as next year’s local elections.

The hunting season was suspended by government between 21 September and 10 October following a spate of illegal poaching last month.

The survey held among 400 respondents contacted over the past week also reveals that the government’s abrupt decision has disoriented a category of pro hunting Labour voters.

In fact 37% of Labour voters disagree with the government’s decision to stop the season.

Moreover Nationalist voters are more likely than Labour voters to support the government’s decision to suspend the season.

While 69% of PN voters support the government’s stance, only 54% of PL voters do likewise.

This suggests that demographically the pro hunting lobby enjoys the support of a significant part of Labour’s electorate, to the extent that nearly four in every 10 Labour voters express open disagreement with the government’s decision to suspend the Autumn season.

The survey shows that recent events which included a rowdy protest by hunters against the government’s decision have not significantly altered voting intentions in a possible referendum on Spring hunting.

Support for a ban on spring hunting remains the same as last month. While 49% would vote to abolish Spring hunting 34% would vote to keep spring hunting.

Moreover despite the anger of the hunting community, which culminated in a protest in which the Prime Minister was the target of abuse before birdwatchers and journalists were attacked, the majority of Labour voters will vote against the spring hunting ban.

The survey also shows that respondents overwhelmingly (59%) want the spring hunting referendum to be held on the same day as next year’s local elections.

But the same survey shows a relative majority (43%) favouring the postponement to 2019 of elections due in 2015 and 2017 as suggested by the government.

This indicates that a significant part of the electorate has not made a link between the proposal to postpone local elections to 2019 and attempts to accommodate the hunting lobby by ensuring a standalone referendum.

In fact when respondents were asked whether elections should be postponed to 2019, a relative majority of 43% replied yes.

But when asked specifically whether the referendum should be held on the same day as next year’s local elections 59% replied yes.

PN voters support Muscat’s decision

The survey shows clearly that Muscat’s decision to stop the season is more popular among Nationalist voters, 69% of whom support the decision. Only 54% of PL voters support the government on this issue.

The survey reveals that 37% of PL voters disagree with the government’s decision. This shows that Labour harbours a large following of voters who sympathise with hunters to the extent that they even disagree with decisions taken by the present government when these are deemed unfair by the hunting lobby.

The survey also shows massive support among university-educated respondents, 86% of whom support the government’s decision.

But support for the government’s decision falls to 60% among those with a post secondary level of education and to 57% among those with a secondary education.

Among those with a primary level of education, support for the government’s decision falls to 49%.

Majority will vote for spring hunting ban

The survey confirms a majority in favour of a ban on Spring hunting if a referendum is held on this issue.

But the survey shows a five-point increase among those opposed to the Spring hunting ban, and there was a drop in the percentage of undecided.

This suggests that a number of pro hunting respondents have shifted from not voting in the referendum to voting against the ban.

The surveys confirms that the vast majority of PN voters (73%) will vote for the ban on Spring hunting while a majority of Labour voters (51%) will vote against the ban.

Among Labour voters the percentage of those intent on not voting in the referendum has dropped from 17% last month to just 4% now while those opposed to the ban on Spring hunting increased from 43% to 51%.

The percentage of Labour voters supporting the ban has also increased from 35% to 39%.

The survey confirms that university educated respondents remain firmly opposed to hunting. Among this group the percentage of those in favour of a ban on Spring hunting has increased from 70% to 83%.

59% want referendum on same day of local elections

An absolute majority of 59% of respondents want the referendum to be held on the same day as next year’s local elections.

Only 25% would prefer a standalone referendum, an option first proposed by the hunting lobby in June, in what was interpreted as a strategy to diminish voter turnout.

But a relative majority of respondents (43%) agree with the idea floated by the government of postponing local elections due in 2015 and 2017 to 2019. Effectively this would mean that the referendum will be stand-alone and won’t coincide with local elections.

This suggests that a segment of respondents gave contradictory replies, by first saying they are in favour of the referendum being held on the same day as local elections and then agreeing with the proposal to postpone local elections to 2019.

An analysis of results shows that a majority of Labour voters agree with both postponing local elections and holding the referendum on the same day as next year’s local elections.

On the other hand the vast majority of Nationalist voters are against postponing elections and in favour of holding the referendum in conjunction with next year’s local elections.

University educated respondents are also firmly in favour of holding the referendum with local elections next year (83%) and firmly against postponing local elections to 2019 (72%).

The relative majority in favour of postponing elections to 2019 suggests that voters are showing signs of electoral fatigue or complacency. But the fact that only 43% agree with the postponement shows that no consensus agrees to postpone these elections. But the survey suggests that despite the attempts of the Nationalist opposition to score points on this issue, the electorate has remained passive, with one in every four replying “don’t know” when asked whether they agree or not.

On the other hand the fact that a vast majority of respondents want the referendum to be held on the same day as next year’s local elections suggests that respondents may be less complacent if they see the postponement of local elections as an attempt to derail the spring hunting referendum.

Methodological note

The survey was held between Monday 6 and Thursday 9 October. 671 respondents were contacted by telephone. 400 accepted to be interviewed. The results were weighed to reflect the gender and age balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.9 points.

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