MaltaToday Survey | PN cuts gap by 10,000 but election now will be repeat of 2017

Bernard Grech’s trust rating up as Robert Abela experiences second consecutive decline, but Labour still could have 36,000-vote majority

Robert Abela’s trust rating has declined for the second consecutive month and now stands at 45.1% as a resurgent Bernard Grech cuts the gap to 15 points.

The February MaltaToday survey shows that Abela had two points knocked off his trust rating from the previous month, while Grech increased his tally by four points to 30.3%.

The trust gap between the leaders in February is down to 14.8 points from 21.3 points last month. However, this is still not the closest gap between the leaders since in March last year when Abela flunked on the back of rising COVID-19 cases, the difference stood at five points.

Yet, 21.3% of voters, trust none of the two leaders – a figure that has remained relatively static from last month.

A demographic breakdown of the numbers shows that Abela leads Grech in all age groups. But the Prime Minister’s comfortable lead is reduced to a hairline among pensioners, where Grech has made major inroads. Grech’s performance among the elderly reflects the numbers for his party.

Results for these subgroups have to be treated with caution since the margins of error are much higher than the overall sample but the movement towards Grech and the PN among the elderly does suggest a level of disquiet with government among pensioners.

Among those aged 16 to 35, Abela enjoys a trust rating of 38.7% against Grech’s 22.8%. However, this is also the cohort with the highest percentage of voters who trust none of the two leaders – 35.8%.

A geographical breakdown of results shows that Abela leads in four regions, while Grech emerges ahead in two.

AD 2017   
Did not Vote 2017   
PN 2017   
PL 2017   
Current non-voters   

Other Parties   
Difference between the two surveys   

The Prime Minister wins absolute majorities in the Southern Harbour and South-Eastern regions, and relative majorities in Gozo and the Western region. The PN leader wins relative majorities in the Northern Harbour and Northern regions.

Abela enjoys the trust of 84.1% of those who voted for the PL in the 2017 general election, while Grech is trusted by 71.2% of those who voted PN.

There are 2.3% of Nationalists who trust Abela and 2.1% of Labourites who trust Grech. But there are 23% of PN voters – almost double those of the PL – who trust none of the two leaders.

Abela remains more popular than the PL, while Grech trails his own party.

PN cuts gap by 10,000

Labour could win an election with just under 36,000 votes over the Nationalist Party, MaltaToday’s February survey shows.

The projected result will see the PL capturing 54.3% of the vote, against the PN’s 42.8%. ADPD would poll 1.9%, a result similar to 2017 although the gap has declined by just over 10,000 votes since MaltaToday’s January survey.

The projected result does not attribute voting preference to those who say they will not vote and new voters unsure who to vote for. Unsure voters, who voted in 2017, are assumed to be voting in line with their past preference.

If all uncommitted new voters are assumed to vote for the PN – an unlikely scenario – the gap would drop to just under 26,000.

PL stable, PN claws back

A breakdown of the survey results shows that the PL voter share has remained stable but a resurgent PN has managed to claw back some of the lost ground.

The survey was conducted between 31 January and 4 February. The survey captures the public mood in the wake of a police raid on former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s house; the disquiet caused by the removal of COVID vaccine certificate restrictions a couple of weeks after they came into force; the PN’s in-your-face billboard campaign contrasting Robert Abela’s previous retainer at the Planning Authority with the squeeze people are facing as a result of rising prices; and crucially for Nationalist morale, Roberta Metsola’s election as European Parliament president.

While none of these appear to have hurt the PL (its raw voting share has increased marginally by 0.6 points), the Prime Minister has experienced a drop in his trust rating of two points.

It remains to be seen whether this snapshot will develop into a trend but at the opposite end of the spectrum, the PN appears to have been energised.

The PN’s raw voting share jumped up by almost four points, while Bernard Grech’s trust rating has also improved by four points. This suggests some form of consolidation among lukewarm PN voters.

The impact of government’s announcement on Thursday that it will distribute cash handouts to cushion the impact of inflation would not have been captured by this survey.

A year on

When compared to February last year, the PL is today in a better state, while the PN’s resurgence still leaves it short of its performance 12 months ago.

In February 2021, the PL’s raw survey result clocked in at 41% (today: 44.1%) as the government faced the brunt of public anger over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the PN registered 33% (today: 32.4%).

At the time, Abela was almost seven points ahead of Grech on the trust barometer. Today, the trust gap is more than double with Abela ahead by almost 15 points.

PN wins among pensioners

A deeper look at the raw survey results shows that the PL is leading the PN in all age groups apart from pensioners. Within the 65+ category, the PN enjoys a relative majority of 44.8% against the PL’s 43.1%.

Although these subgroups have higher margins of error, the PL’s drop in support among pensioners is significant and may be attributable to increased financial pressure on the elderly as a result of the rising cost of living, which has outstripped improvements in the pension cheque.

Among voters aged between 16 and 35, the PL enjoys a 13-point advantage over the PN.

On a geographical basis, the PL beats the PN in three regions, while the Opposition is ahead in the other three.

The PL enjoys absolute majorities in the Southern Harbour (63.1%) and the South-Eastern (53.5%) regions, and a relative majority of 48.5% in Gozo.

The PN enjoys relative majorities in the Northern Harbour (45.6%), the Northern (37.4%) and Western (36.9%) regions.

Shift to PN

The survey shows that the PL’s retention rate from the last general election stands at 83.8%, while that of the PN stands at 74.8%. The retention rate shows how many of those who voted for the respective parties in the 2017 election will do so again.

But for the first time in many months, the survey shows that there are more Labour voters shifting to the PN than there are PN voters shifting to the PL.

While 1.4% of 2017 PN voters now say, they will vote Labour, 3% of PL voters say they will support the Nationalists.

Methodology: The survey was carried out between Monday 31 January 2022 and Friday 4 February 2022. 643 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 4.2% for a confidence interval of 95% for the overall results. Demographic and sub-group breakdowns have significantly larger margins of error.