MaltaToday Survey | PL still leads by four points, Muscat trust by five

The latest MaltaToday survey shows that 19% of respondents are still undecided or did not reveal their voting intentions. This category may ultimately determine the fate of the election

james
James Debono
28 May 2017, 7:30am
Last updated on 29 May 2017, 7:35am
MaltaToday’s latest survey shows few changes from last week’s poll, with the gap between the two leaders widening to 4.8  from 4.7 points, and the PL slightly extending its lead from 3.6 points to 4.2 points. All differences fall within the margin of error of both surveys

An extrapolation of the survey after removing undecided voters and non-voters would give Labour 52.2%, the PN 46.9% and AD 0.9%. This means that if undecided voters go to both parties in equal proportion the gap would grow to 5.3 points. 

Changes in surveys conducted during the electoral campaign have been minimal, oscillating between a 3.3 point gap in the first week of the campaign to 4.2 points now.

The difference between the two parties increased from 3.3 points in the first week of the campaign to 3.9 points in the second week, only to drop to 3.6 points in the third week. A week before the election it has gone up to 4.2 points. But these oscillations have to be seen against the margin of error of each survey.

The slight increase in Labour’s gap over last week comes in the wake of a three-point increase of ‘don’t knows’ and ‘no replies’ among those who had voted PN in 2013.

The survey still shows that 19% of respondents are undecided or did not reveal their voting intentions. This category may ultimately determine the fate of the election.

Who are the undecided?

The percentage of undecided and no replies in this week’s survey (19%) is lower than the 26% registered in MaltaToday’s surveys at the same stage before the 2013 general election. 

Prior to the March 2013 election, while 28% of undecided voters declared voting PN in 2008, only 17% of undecided voters declared voting PL in the last election.  

In fact while the survey showed the PL leading by 12 points, which tallied with the actual election result, the extrapolation of the result after removing don’t knows showed the PL leading by a staggering 16 points. This indicates that in the actual election the undecided had shifted in greater numbers to the PN than towards the PL.

The present survey suggests that while a relative majority of undecided had voted PL in 2013 (33.3% voted PL while 31% voted PN), a larger majority had voted PN in 2008.

A breakdown of the undecided shows that only 15% of those who are now undecided had voted Labour in 2008 compared to 40% who had voted PN in 2008.  

But a further 14% of presently undecided voters consist of switchers who voted PN in 2008 and Labour in 2013. An additional 12% had not voted in 2013, nearly double the number of those who had not voted in 2008. A substantial 19% of undecided refused to reveal their previous voting record. 

This suggests that undecided switchers and undecided non-voters in 2013 may hold the key on who gets Castille on June 3. And while the undecided in this survey leaned heavily towards the PN in 2008, a large segment of them had switched to Labour in 2013.

6% of PL voters to vote PN

The survey shows 6.3% of Labour voters (up from 5.7% last week) in 2013 shifting from the PL to the PN and 3.3%  (up from 1.9% last week) of PN voters in 2013 shifting from the PN to the PL.

In actual figures this would translate into the PL losing some 10,555 votes to the PN and the PN losing circa 4,370 votes to the PL over the 2013 election figures.  

The survey also shows the PL losing 1.6% of its 2013 voters to abstention compared to 0.3% lost by PN.

If translated into actual votes this would translate in Labour losing 2,512 votes and the PN losing 794 votes.

When losses to abstention and flows between the two parties are taken into account the PN is gaining 5,788 votes over 2013 and the PL losing 8,865 votes. This suggests that while the PN is gaining more votes than the PL, the shift is not enough to overturn Labour’s majority. Moreover the PL is compensating some of its losses in the Labour cohort of voters by making some inroads into the PN’s 2013 cohort of voters.

But these figures do not factor in the influx of non-voters in previous elections, new voters and respondents who still claim to be undecided.

The survey shows 10% of PL voters in 2013 undecided – the same as last week. This category is mainly composed of switchers who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013. In the switcher category 31%  (two points up from last week) are undecided compared to only 5% of PL voters in 2008.  

The number of undecided among PN voters has gone up from 5% to 9% from last week. But this was matched by a three-point drop among PN voters in 2013 who would not reveal their voting intentions. This suggests that undecided switchers may have a key role in determining the result on June 3.  

For the second time in the electoral campaign the survey shows the PN-PD coalition enjoying a small lead among switchers. But the survey also shows Muscat enjoying a small lead over Busuttil in this category.

The survey only gives an indication of how non-voters and new voters will be voting on June 3 because the sample of these two strategic cohorts is too small.  

But the survey confirms the PN’s advantage among non-voters in 2013 registered in previous surveys. Busuttil also enjoys a strong trust lead among this group. This suggests that the PN is recovering former voters who registered their protest by not voting in the 2013 general election. 

As regards new voters, the survey records a drop in undecided among this group from 39% last week to 17% now. This week’s survey shows the PN-PD coalition and the PL running neck and neck at 38% each.

Margin of error can still impact result

MaltaToday’s latest survey was carried out among 850 respondents contacted between Monday and Thursday. The survey has a margin of error of 3.5 points. 

This means that the difference between the two parties still lies within this margin.  The PN’s result could be anywhere between 33.4% and 40.4% while the PL’s result could be anywhere between 37.6% and 44.6%.   

This means that it is still possible that the PN could be in the lead. But this also means that Labour’s lead could be even greater. Moreover Labour’s lead has been consistent at between three and four points in five consecutive surveys.

The survey still shows the Greens below the 1-point mark at 0.7%. The overall percentage of respondents who would vote for PD candidates on the PN list stands at only 1.1% (down by 0.3 points from last week). But the percentage of small parties could also be heavily impacted by the margin of error. The same applies to political parties who were not mentioned by respondents in this survey.

Muscat retains 5-point lead

Overall when asked who of the two leaders they trust most, 38.5% chose Busuttil while 43.3% chose Muscat. Compared to last week Busuttil has lost 0.7 points while Muscat has lost 0.6  points. 

Among Labour voters in 2013, Muscat has seen his trust rating rise from 73.7% before the start of the election campaign to 78.8% during the first week, to 85% in the second and third weeks of the campaign. But in this survey it falls back to 82% in this category. Busuttil has also lost two points in his trust rating among PN voters.

The survey now shows Muscat trusted by 82% of PL voters in 2013 and Busuttil by 85% of PN voters in 2013.

The percentage of Labour voters in 2013 who trust neither of the two leaders remains at 5% as it was last week. 4% of PN voters in 2013 trust neither leader.

7% of PL voters trust Busuttil

Significantly 6.8% of PL voters in 2013 (up from 6.4% last week) trust Busuttil more than Muscat. On the other hand 3.6% of PN voters in 2013 trust Muscat more than Busuttil, (same as last week). This suggests that both leaders have managed to appeal beyond the boundaries of their respective 2013 cohorts.

Over the past week both leaders have lost points among switchers. But while Muscat has lost two points, Busuttil has lost four. Muscat now enjoys the trust of 33% of switchers compared to Busuttil who enjoys the trust of 31% of switchers. The percentage of undecided voters among this category has grown by nearly eight points over last week while those who trust neither leader has declined by two points.

In this week’s survey 4% of PL voters in the 2008 general election trust the PN leader more than Muscat, up from 2% last week. This confirms Busuttil’s ability to inspire trust among traditional Labour voters who had voted for Labour when it was still led by Alfred Sant.  

PL leads by 4 points 

As regards voting intentions the survey shows the PN gaining 0.3 points and Labour gaining  0.9  points. The survey shows a two point increase in don’t knows.  But this was corresponded by a three-point drop in no replies. 

The survey confirms inroads made by the PN among Labour voters in the last election. The percentage of PL voters shifting to the PN-PD alliance has increased slightly from 5.7% last week to 6.3% now. The percentage of PL voters shifting to the PN is exactly as it was two weeks ago.

But the percentage of PN voters who will now vote PL has also increased to 3.3%, which is the highest registered so far during the electoral campaign. This suggests that the PN has not blocked the haemorrhage of votes to the PL and that Muscat is still appealing to a category of PN voters in 2013. This is a clear indication that a segment that voted for Lawrence Gonzi’s party in 2013 may have warmed to Labour in government.

But in this survey the PN also makes greater inroads among the PL’s 2008 voters.  While a week ago only 1.3% of PL voters in 2008 said they would vote PN, the percentage rises to 3.2%. This figure includes 0.6% who will be voting for the Democratic Party.

Of strategic importance is the PN’s advantage among non-voters in the 2013 general election. Among this category, while 33% will vote PN or PD (three points up from last week), 15% (same as last week) will vote PL. AD fares best among this group, registering 3%. 

Both leaders 2 points more popular than their party

The survey shows both Muscat and Busuttil being two points more popular than their party. 

This indicates that both parties’ have some space for future growth among that category of electors who prefer Muscat or Busuttil, but who are not committed with regard to voting intentions. 

But the survey also shows Busuttil gaining ground among 2008 Labour voters than among his own party. In fact while 3.2% of PL voters in 2008 will vote PN or PD, 4.1% of the same cohort trust Busuttil more than Muscat. This also indicates that the PN may have some space for further growth in this cohort.  But unlike Busuttil Muscat remains two points more popular than his party among switchers. 

Methodology

The survey was held between 22 and 25 May. The results were weighted to reflect the age and gender balance of the population as shown in the census of the population. The survey which was based on a random sample chosen from on-line phone directories was stopped when 850 phone calls were completed. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5 points.

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