MaltaToday survey | Can the Nationalist Party win with Grech?

Bernard Grech is a more unifying force for the PN and voters may be more willing to listen to him. But beating Labour at the polls is another ball game

Bernard Grech’s superior performance when compared to Adrian Delia does offer the Nationalist Party more hope.

Grech’s trust rating of 32.1% when matched against Robert Abela is higher than any level Delia has ever obtained over the past three years.

At a time when voters are still getting to know Grech, who this week was revealed to have had a history of unpaid taxes, this is a significant result. It also surpasses the initial trust rating Simon Busuttil had obtained in June 2013 when he became PN leader.

A MaltaToday survey back then showed Busuttil’s trust rating running at 25.9% against then prime minister Joseph Muscat’s 43.3%.

But more importantly for the PN is Grech’s ability to attract back into the fold voters who supported the party in the last general election.

A breakdown of Grech’s result in his runoff with Abela, shows that 75.6% of those who voted PN trust the leadership challenger.

This, contrasts heavily with Delia’s result, which shows that only 27.6% of PN voters trust him.

The survey also shows that the PN continues to suffer a haemorrhage of votes to the Labour Party but with Grech as leader this is less pronounced.

In the face-off between Grech and Abela, 8.9% of PN voters trust the Prime Minister, while 9% trust none of the two leaders.

In the contest between Delia and Abela, 17.5% of PN voters trust the Labour leader and 50% trust no one.

When survey respondents were asked who they trust between Delia and Grech, the latter emerged as the clear winner. Grech is trusted by 43.1% and Delia scores 12.6%.

Of significance in this reply is how Labour voters react.

As expected, 51.6% of PL voters say they do not trust either Delia or Grech, and 12.2% are indifferent.

But 23.2% of PL voters choose Grech and 13% choose Delia. This suggests that Labour voters may be more willing to listen to Grech than the current PN leader.

Does this mean a PN led by Grech could beat Labour? The survey does not show this but for the first time in three years the PN’s chances of giving their rivals a proper challenge may improve under Grech.

Grech is relatively unknown and his performance around the country, across all age groups, and among Labour voters, when compared to Delia’s, indicates that people may be willing to listen to him.

Obviously, these are very early days for Grech and he still faces an arduous leadership campaign with all its pitfalls.

Abela retains a strong trust level, which is bolstered by his ability to appeal to Nationalists even if Grech is in the equation. But the survey does show that at this juncture, Grech appears to have the ability to consolidate the party’s voting base. This is important because Delia’s tenure so far has been hampered by his inability to convince the PN’s own voters to rally around him.

It appears that voters perceive Grech as the candidate who can bring about unity in the PN.

However, to beat Labour, Grech will have to reach out beyond the PN vote and this will require more energy and time. While Grech may have the energy, he has much less time on his hands, which makes beating Labour a daunting task.