[FULL DATA] Trust barometer puts Muscat in 11-point lead, but Busuttil gets trust boost

Opposition leader gains three points over summer

james
James Debono
6 October 2015, 9:18am
MaltaToday Trust Barometer 5 October 2015 | Create infographics
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat enjoys a strong 11-point lead over Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in MaltaToday’s latest survey.

Muscat saw his trust lead increase by 1 point over the last survey in June 2015, while Busuttil increased his trust rating by a convincing 3 points.

Significantly, Labour leads by 4 points over the PN when it comes to voting intentions, down from a five-point lead in June 2015 and an eight-point lead in March 2015.

Muscat emerges as clearly more popular than his party, being trusted by 40% of voters. That’s 8 points more than the percentage of voters who are sure of voting Labour again in a forthcoming election. 

On the other hand Busuttil is just 1 point more popular than his own party.

The survey comes after the summer recess, which was dominated by allegations of sleaze and ongoing investigations in the Lands Department and Identity Malta, traffic problems and controversy on environmental issues, albeit against a backdrop of economic growth.

The survey indicates considerable movement among voters of both parties, with 6% of PN voters in 2013 now opting for the PL and 9% of PL voters who are now choosing the PN. 

Importantly, MaltaToday’s survey registers the narrowest trust gap ever between the two leaders since June 2013. With Muscat gaining 1 point and Busuttil three, the trust gap falls to 10.7 points. Their gains correspond to a decrease in undecided respondents.

Additionally, the survey registers the narrowest gap – 4.1 points – between the two parties since January 2015, when Labour was leading by 9 points.

The PN got a significant shift of 8% of voters who said they voted Labour in 2013, who this time around would vote for the PN.

But confirming Muscat’s continued ability to charm the Nationalist electorate, the PN still suffers a haemorrhage to Labour – 5% of 2013 PN voters said they will vote for Labour, up from 2.1% back in June.

Altogether, the survey suggests that the gap between the two parties has been narrowed from 35,000 to around 21,500 voters – with nearly one-third of ‘switchers’, those who voted PN in 2008 and Labour in 2013 – now intending to vote again for the PN.

Muscat retains strong lead

Despite the difficulties he is facing as PM, Muscat retained a strong trust lead with 1 point gained over June.

But Busuttil’s 3-point gain shows he has kept wins among switchers in June. Back in March, only 9% of these voters preferred him. Now 27%, compared to 29% in June, prefer him to Muscat.

He also won more Labour voters, up from 4.1% in March to 6.6% now; while his rating went up from 72% in March to 79% among PN voters. This shows that over the past months Busuttil consolidated his position among PN voters while making limited inroads among switchers and Labour voters.

Muscat still manages to charm a segment of the PN’s 2013 voters: 6% say they now prefer him to Busuttil.

What is of concern to Muscat is the increase of the segment of PL voters in 2013 that trust neither leader – up from to 7% to 13% since June – suggesting that Busuttil stands strong with his restricted electorate, while Muscat faces problems with his electorate while still enticing a segment of PN voters.

PN shifts

For the second consecutive time, the survey registers a small but significant shift in favour of the PN.

8% of PL voters in 2013 say they will vote for the PN; only 5% of PN voters will vote PL. This suggests Labour has lost some 13,400 votes of its 2013 voters to the PN… which is itself losing 6,600 to the PL. No votes from the PN were lost to Alternattiva Demokratika in this survey.

But 31.8% of switchers – PN voters who switched to Labour in 2013 – now say they will vote for the PN again, up from just 12% in March, but 2 points less than in June.

So the gap between the two parties would have been narrowed from 35,000 to around 21,500 voters. This calculation takes into account the flows between the three political parties and is being done without taking account of voters who are currently undecided or intent on not voting. 

Despite its inroads among switchers, the PN has not stemmed the haemorrhage of votes towards Labour, confirming the party’s vulnerability to Muscat’s appeal to middle-of-the-road voters and even traditional Nationalists. It’s these gains that keep Labour solidly ahead of the PN even in the face of losing one-third of those switchers who voted for it in 2013.

Labour’s problems would be greater when factoring in non-voters. Only 6% of the PN’s 2013 voters say they would not vote if an election if held now; that percentage is 12% for Labour’s voters. That would see the Labour gap reduced to around 10,400 votes, but this is unlikely to be the case because a large segment of these disillusioned Labour voters still trust Muscat more than Busuttil.

Indeed Muscat still commands a stronger following than his party. 40% trust Muscat more than Busuttil, when only 32% say they will vote Labour if an election is held now. On the other hand, Busuttil at 29% is only slightly more popular than his party (26%).

Even among switchers were ‘only’ 41% are sure of voting Labour again, 50% trust Muscat more than Busuttil, suggesting that Labour has more room to grow than the PN in recovering its 2013 voters.

In fact, while 78% of PL voters say they prefer Muscat, only 74% are sure of voting Labour. On the other hand, while 79% of PN voters prefer Busuttil, 82% of PN voters will vote PN again. 

This suggests that Muscat is more trusted than his party among Labour voters, but Busuttil is less popular than his own party among Nationalist voters.

Methodology

Survey held between Monday 28 September and Friday 2 October respondents contacted and survey stopped after 500- quota sample reached. Margin of error +/-4.4 percentage points. 40.7% of respondents said they voted PL in 2013, while 27.3% said they voted PN – tallying with the gap between both parties in the last general election.

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