Little change, big tremors: how MaltaToday’s surveys mapped political fortunes

Support for the Labour Party has waned since the March general election but it remains strongly ahead of the Nationalist Party. Kurt Sansone analyses the survey numbers since the election

The Labour Party’s performance in the polls has gone from bad to worse since May and yet it remains well ahead of the Nationalist Party.

In the last MaltaToday survey published at the start of December, the PL registered its worst result at 36.4% as it continued to shed support. In electoral terms this would equate to 129,256 votes, representing a decline of almost 33,500 votes from its election result.

And yet, despite this loss, the party in government remains significantly stronger than its main rival.

In the December survey the PN clocked 24.2%, reversing the downward trend it had experienced since May. This result would equate to 85,934 votes, representing a decline of 37,300 votes from the election result.

PN punished harder than PL

In electoral terms, the December survey would give the PL an advantage of 43,322 votes over the PN – a gap that is 3,800 votes wider than that of the election.

Undecided respondents, who accounted for 13.2% (46,873 voters) in the December survey, were not attributed a voting intention for the purposes of this exercise.

But the December survey also recorded 22.2% of voters who said they will not vote. This would translate into 78,832 voters, who have declared their intention to abstain.

This represents an increase of 19,000 voters over the general election when almost 60,000 voters either stayed at home or invalidated their ballot.

If one were to draw an average of the four surveys conducted since the election – May, July, October and December – the PL would clock an average of 40.4% (143,460 votes), the PN 24.7% (87,710 votes), ADPD 2.6% (9,233 votes), and the ‘no-vote party’ 17.6% (62,498).

The numbers suggest a mixture of political fatigue and disillusionment has kicked in after the election but the PN continues to be punished more harshly than the PL.

In the March election both major parties registered a decrease in the number votes obtained when compared to five years prior but the PN decline was steeper, leading to an even bigger gap between the parties.

Bigger share for ADPD

ADPD’s performance in the election was an improvement over its performance five years prior and the MaltaToday surveys now give the party an average support of 2.6%, or 9,233 votes. This represents an increase of almost 4,500 votes over the election performance.

Although ADPD’s survey results must be treated with caution since they fall within the margin of error, they do follow the election trend where all third parties grouped together, including independent candidates, scored a combined 9,308 votes.

This result by third parties and independents was unprecedented for a general election since 1966. The surveys so far suggest that this could become a trend.

But the bigger phenomenon party strategists will be definitely looking at is the disillusioned voter.

The ‘no-vote party’

An abstention of almost 60,000 voters in the March election was a significant development that shocked the political establishment. Although the downward trend in voter turnout was visible over the previous two decades, the rapid increase in the last election was astounding.

And the survey numbers suggest that the ‘no-vote party’ has continued to grow since the election.

The average of non-voters in the four surveys held since May, shows that 17.6% of respondents will not vote if an election is held now. This figure represents 62,498 voters.

The ‘no-vote party’ doubled from 11.2% in the May survey to 22.2% in December.

A breakdown of the numbers shows that the absolute majority of non-voters are the same people who chose not to vote in the March general election. However, while in the May survey 51.3% of election non-voters reconfirmed their abstention, this number grew to 73.3% by December.

Abstainers include PL and PN voters

Abstention rates also increased among supporters of the two major parties, with the PN once again being punished harder than the PL.

In the May survey, 0.9% of PL election voters and 5.6% of PN voters said they would not vote. These numbers grew to 9.9% of PL voters and 16.2% of PN voters by December, an indication of growing disenchantment among their respective supporters.

The reasons for this could be varied and different for either set of supporters but the PL enjoys an advantage over its rival since its leader, Robert Abela, enjoyed a significantly high trust rating over the period despite experiencing a decline.

Abela remained more popular than his party, which means the PL has growth potential.

On the flip side, Bernard Grech’s trust rating remained flat and is less popular than his own party.

The overall picture that the surveys paint is one where the general election scenario continues to persist – the PL retains a strong advantage over the PN against a backdrop of growing rejection of the two main parties.

But the little change in the overall picture sits side by side with the big tremors caused by voters stamping their feet. In the new year, politicians are advised to keep their ears on the ground.