MaltaToday Survey | Abela trust sinks, Labour polls lowest result in three years

FULL DATA • Mid-term blues compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and Bernard Grech’s election as PN leader appears to have left their impact on Abela’s administration

Robert Abela’s trust rating has sunk to its lowest level at 46.6% since becoming Prime Minister in January, a MaltaToday survey shows.

This is the first time that Abela’s rating went below the 50% mark in a contest that now pits him against newly-elected Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech.

Grech’s trust rating, his first as PN leader, stands at 30.9%. The trust gap between the Prime Minister and Opposition leader has narrowed to almost 16 points, the closest it has ever been between the leaders of the two major parties since October 2017.

In a survey carried out last month, when Grech was still a candidate in the PN leadership race, the gap between the two leaders stood at almost 20 points.

Since September, Abela’s trust rating when compared to Grech decreased by five points, while Grech lost one point.

Abela vs Grech 

Abela beats Grech among men and women but the Prime Minister has a stronger lead among female voters. 

The Prime Minister also trounces Grech across all age groups but differences are less pronounced than when Adrian Delia was PN leader. 

The largest gap between them (almost 24 points) is among young voters aged between 18 and 35. Abela receives the trust of 45% of young voters against Grech’s 21.4%. 

The gap narrows progressively in the other age groups with the closest being among those aged 65 and over where Abela leads by eight points. 

On a regional basis, Abela leads in five of the six regions but loses his stratospheric trust in the traditional Labour strongholds in the South-East and Southern Harbour. 

In the South-Eastern region, which includes Marsaskala, Żejtun, Birżebbuġa and the villages around the airport, Abela enjoys a trust rating of 53.1%. This represents a drop of almost 20 points from the September survey. 

In the Southern Harbour region, which includes the Cottonera, Fgura, Żabbar, Paola and Valletta, Abela receives a trust rating of 52.7%, a decrease of seven points. 

The Prime Minister’s below par performance in these two regions does not appear to be a direct result of Grech’s ascent to the PN throne, suggesting disquiet within the Labour Party’s rank and file. 

Grech only manages a trust rating of 16.3% in the South-Eastern region and 27.2% in the Southern Harbour – almost the same as last month. 

Abela has better performances in Gozo and the Western region (includes Żebbuġ, Siġġiewi, Rabat, Attard, Lija and Balzan). 

On the sister island, the Prime Minister registers a trust rating of 54.8%, while in the Western region he captures the support of 55%. 

But Abela’s trust plummets in the Northern region (includes Mellieħa, Mosta, Naxxar and St Paul’s Bay), where he receives the support of 26.4%. This is the only region where his rival emerges ahead. 

Grech enjoys the trust of 39.1% in the Northern region. 

Ironically, Grech’s best performance is in Gozo where he enjoys a trust level of 45.2%, reversing a trend of poor performances registered by his PN predecessor. 

In the Northern Harbour, Abela scores a trust rating of 46.1% against Grech’s 36.1%.

Grech and mid-term blues 

The numbers suggest that Grech’s election as PN leader has stirred the waters. In deep contrast with his predecessor, Grech retains the trust of 73.4% of those who voted PN in the last general election. Even if these are still early days for Grech, it appears that he has started consolidating the 2017 PN vote, something Delia was unable to achieve over three years. 

But Grech’s modest performance may not be the Prime Minister’s only concern. Abela could be suffering the consequences of the electorate’s mid-term blues with the Labour administration. 

General concern on job security and incomes as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic coincide with the administration’s half-way point, making this a toxic cocktail for Abela. 

This, coupled with government’s lacklustre handling of the coronavirus crisis in elderly care homes, may explain the narrowing trust gap between both leaders in the older age groups. 

Of consolation for Abela is that his standing among young voters remains well ahead of his Nationalist rival but this category is also the one that displays the highest level of distrust in either politician.

Labour polls lowest result in three years

The Labour Party has polled its lowest result in three years and support is now running at 40.3%, according to a MaltaToday survey.

The Nationalist Party’s support has climbed to 30%. The gap between the major parties now stands at just over 10 points, the closest it has ever been in three years.

Mid-term blues compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and Bernard Grech’s election as PN leader appear to have left their impact on Abela’s administration.

Transferring the survey result onto the actual performance of the political parties in the last general election (assuming that those who are unsure will vote according to their previous election choice), shows that the PL

enjoys a lead of 30,000 votes, a significant decrease from the 57,000 votes registered last month. In the 2017 election the PL surpassed the PN by 35,280 votes.

The PL lost almost five points since the last survey in September, a time characterised by rising coronavirus infections and deadly outbreaks in elderly homes.

Since July, the party in government lost 7.5 points and its popularity now stands at its lowest since October 2017. The voter retention rate from the last election has also dropped to 77.3%, in sheer contrast to the 82% and 92% achieved in September and July respectively.

The PN’s share of the vote climbed almost seven points since September, hitting the 30% mark for the first time since May 2018.

Grech’s election as leader appears to have brought back into the fold a large section of 2017 PN voters, who felt estranged from the party under his predecessor Adrian Delia.

The PN’s voter retention rate now stands at 72.8%, a significant increase over the 58.5% and 50.6% achieved in the September and July surveys respectively.

The PL beats the PN among male and female voters with a stronger result among women.

Labour also beats the PN across all age groups but the difference between the parties has tightened, especially among those aged 36 and over.

The PL achieves its best result among those aged between 18 and 35, registering 41.7%. The PN still struggles in this age group, obtaining 18.1%.

The parties are neck and neck among those aged 65 and over with the PL registering 39.5% against the PN’s 39%.

Labour suffers in southern strongholds

On a regional level the PL emerges ahead in all territories apart from the Northern region.

The PL’s best result is in Gozo where it achieves an absolute majority at 52.4%. The PN gains the support of 32.1% of the electorate on the sister island.

But the PL suffers in its strongholds in the South East and Southern Harbour.

In the South-Eastern region the PL registers 50.4%, which is a far cry from past performances where results hit the 60-70% range.

The region roughly coincides with the Third and Fifth electoral districts, which are typically Labour strongholds.

But the PL’s relatively poor performance has not resulted in gains for the PN. The Opposition party gets the support of 14.7% in the South-Eastern region, a decrease from the 19% achieved last month.

But Labour’s performance is worse in the Southern Harbour region, which roughly coincides with the Second and Fourth electoral districts – bulwarks of Labour support.

The party in government gets 44.5% against the PN’s 27.8%. The result is probably the most significant marker of the PL administration’s mid-term blues.

Since September, the PL lost just over six points, while the PN gained 16 points.

The only region where the PN comes ahead is the Northern region, where it scores 36.9% against the PL’s 20.1%.

This is also the region with largest cohort of undecided voters (20.8%).

Methodology

The survey was carried out between Monday 5 October 2020 and Friday 9 October 2020. 654 respondents opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on region, age and gender was used to replicate the Maltese demographic. The estimated margin of error is 4.8% for a confidence interval of 95% for the overall results. Demographic and sub-group breakdowns have considerably larger margins of error.

 

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