Malta’s youths are undecided (the PN gets the grey vote and Labour rules middle-aged voters)

Five takeaways from the MaltaToday survey: Labour loses ground among young, pensioners, tertiary-educated but grows with 51-65s, while PN gains with pensioners

There has been very little change in the overall results of the most recent MaltaToday survey compared to the previous survey in July.

Both parties have lost a percentage point while Labour leader Robert Abela has retained the same trust rating he had in July. But the survey shows significant changes in support for parties and leaders within different age and educational groups.

Although these changes have to be treated with extra caution due to the increased margin of error when the sample is broken down in smaller age and educational brackets, the overall picture from the survey is that Labour’s strong showing with those aged 51-65 has compensated for considerable losses among pensioners – where the PN has made substantial inroads; while the PN fails to capitalise on Labour’s losses among younger and more educated voters.

1. PN fails to capitalise on Labour’s losses among young and tertiary-educated

Among university-educated voters, the survey shows the PN leading Labour by 14 points and Grech leading Abela by five.

Yet when the September is compared to July, Labour loses six points among this segment, the PN loses a point, and while Abela drops by nine points, Bernard Grech retains roughly the same level of trust as in July. This shows that among university-educated voters, Labour’s losses have simply resulted in a 6-point increase of non-committed voters who are either undecided or won’t vote.

Significantly 30% of university-educated voters are still undecided or intend not voting, showing Malta’s greylisting by FATF, the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, corruption probes and environmental issues have had their toll on Labour’s support in this category, yet a significant chunk of these voters remains wary of the PN. 

To close the overall gap the PN desperately needs to maximise its support in this category.

Even among post-secondary voters, where both Abela and Labour still enjoy a notable advantage over Grech and the PN, non-committed voters increased by six points over July. 

A similar pattern is observed among younger voters (16-35) even if Labour still retains a 2-point lead and Abela a more substantial 14-point lead. But similarly, a 9-point drop in trust in Abela was matched by a 4-point drop in Grech’s rating. And a 5-point drop in support for Labour is matched by a 3-point drop in support for the PN.

It’s another indication that a chunk of younger voters who are disillusioned by Labour are wary of the PN. And here the percentage of non-committal voters has increased by 7 points when compared to July.  

ADPD also registers its highest support (4%) among tertiary-educated voters and younger voters in another indication that disillusion with Labour among these voters does not necessarily translate in a vote for the PN.

2. PN is making inroads among pensioners

The good news for the PN is that an eight-point drop in non-committed voters among over-65s saw it gaining 13 points and Labour losing four, where now the PN is leading this age group for the first time in the past months.

But despite a 5-point drop in his trust rating, Abela still enjoys a 2-point trust lead over Grech. It remains to be seen whether these PN gains are sustained in future surveys, especially in view of the forthcoming budget which may well include measures targeting this category. It also remains to be seen how the lifting of COVID restriction will impact on a category, which is more exposed to risk.

The good news for the PN is that the 65+ bracket registered the sharpest drop in non-committed voters, bringing gains to the Opposition. Compared to July, the percentage of non-committed voters has dropped from 14 to 6 points.

The question is: will a similar drop in non-committed voters in other age groups yield the same result? The survey results also put the PN in a quandary in appealing to the sensitivities of different age groups. While its conservatism appeals to older voters, it could also be one main reason why younger voters shy away from the party.

3. Labour is becoming stronger among older workers

Labour is maximising its support among 51-65s where Abela enjoys an impressive 49-point advantage over Grech and Labour a 41-point lead over the PN. Compared to July, Labour has increased its support in this category by 10 points while the PN lost 15 points. This suggests that Labour is in synch with the concern of older workers who may have accumulated enough savings to start investing some of their hard-earned monies. Some may even be benefitting from the property boom. These voters may also be more inclined to value economic and political stability.

Labour and Abela also enjoy a strong lead among the 36-50s, where Abela enjoys a 22-point lead over Grech. But in this category both Grech and the PN registered limited inroads. While Labour lost 7 points in this category, the PN still has only seen a 2-point increase in support.

4. For the first time, the PN seems to have blocked its haemorrhage and benefits from a small shift

Over the past months the PN was still shedding more votes to Labour than the other way round.  In July, the PN was still losing 6% of its 2017 voters to Labour while only gaining 2% of 2017 Labour voters.

In this survey, only 1.2% of PN voters in 2017 would vote Labour in a forthcoming election while 2.2% of PL voters in the same election will now vote PN. This reverses a trend in most surveys since 2009, which saw Labour constantly chipping at the PN’s voting base.

But while blocking the haemorrhage is good news for the PN, it is still not making sufficient inroads to close the gap in any substantial way.

Moreover while 3.8% of PN voters in 2017 trust Abela more than Grech, only 2.5% of PL voters in the same election trust Grech more than Abela.

5. Abela is substantially more popular than his party

The major problem for the PN remains that instead of having its leader one step ahead of the party in winning over trust and support, Grech is actually trailing his own party by a single point.

But the difference between the popularity of the party and the leader is even more pronounced among 16-35s, where while 29% will vote PN, only 24% trust Grech over Abela. On the other hand, in this age group, while only 30% would vote Labour, 38% trust Abela.

The same pattern can also be noted among tertiary-educated voters: while Grech is 4 points less popular then his party, Abela is 5 points more popular then Labour. This means that Labour has more room for future growth than the PN, since voters who trust Abela more than Grech are more likely to vote Labour.