Labour starts European election race 15,000 votes ahead of PN

MaltaToday EP election survey: PL 47.9%, PN 41%, Others 11.1% • Turnout 62.5% • Trust Barometer: Robert Abela 41.1%, Bernard Grech 16.7%, None 42.2% • Government Performance Barometer: 2.8 marks out of 5

MaltaToday’s first survey of 2024 on voting intentions for next June’s MEP elections, puts Labour solidly in pole position with a seven-point lead over the Nationalist Party. 

This translates into a 15,422-vote advantage for the PL over the PN on the back of a significantly low turnout of 62.5%. 

The survey, the first for 2024 that is asking people how they would vote in the European election, sees support for the PL stand at 48%. The PN trails at 41%, while third parties collectively are expected to poll 11%. 

However, a staggering 37.5% of respondents declared their intention of skipping this electoral appointment. 

If this is confirmed on election day, it would represent the lowest turnout ever in an MEP election and a 10-point drop in turnout from the 2019 election.  

Moreover, an absolute majority of 16 to 35 year olds (50%) and 49% of those aged between 36 and 50 will not be voting. 

Although the survey cannot be compared to previous ones asking voters who they would vote if a general election is held now, the survey confirms earlier trends, particularly a high abstention rate among Labour voters. 

But while surveys asking voters how they will vote in a general election showed 25% to 29% of Labour voters intent on abstaining, this percentage grows to a whopping 34% for the EP election. 

Yet despite the lower turnout among Labour voters the party is still poised to win with a comfortable seven-point margin. This is significantly lower than in 2019 when Labour vanquished the PN by a 16.4-point lead and a margin of 42,656 votes. 

But the survey also shows the PN making no substantial gains over 2019 with Labour losing support to abstention and not to the opposition party. 

On the other hand, the survey shows support for third parties, which include ADPD and an assortment of right wing parties and independents, increasing from 7.8% in 2019 to 11%. In the survey small parties are grouped together for methodological reasons. 

PL loses a third of its 2022 voters to abstention 

Although Labour still manages to start the race ahead of the PN, it only manages to retain 58% of its voters from the 2022 general election. And while the PN makes no substantial inroads among PL voters, it still manages to retain 71% of its voters in 2022. 

The survey shows both parties losing support to abstention. But while the PN loses 23% of its 2022 voters to abstention, a whopping 34% of Labour voters are intent on not voting. 

This means the gap between the two parties could be even greater if in the coming months, Labour manages to convince its past voters to go out and vote.  

The survey shows both major parties losing 5% of their 2022 voters to third parties. The PL loses 3% of its 2022 voters to the PN while the PN loses 2% of its voters to the PL. 

Half of under 50 year olds set to abstain 

The survey shows that half of 16 to 35 year olds and 49% of those aged between 36 and 50 are presently intent on not voting in next June’s MEP elections. 

But in an indication of the PN’s inability to communicate with younger people, Labour still enjoys a five-point lead among 16 to 35 year olds and an even higher 12-point lead among 36 to 50 year olds. 

But the survey shows the two parties neck and neck among both 51 to 65 year olds and pensioners, two categories registering a lower abstention rate. This suggests that older PN voters are keener on voting than Labour voters of the same age. 

Abstention highest in Gozo and south east 

The survey also confirms a relatively higher abstention rate in Gozo (43%) and the south east (42%) two regions where Labour has made substantial inroads in the past decade. 

Abstention in the south east is clearly penalising Labour to the extent that the PN is leading by four points in this Labour leaning region, which includes localities like Birżebbuġa, Marsaskala and Żurrieq. In Gozo, Labour still enjoys a small one-point lead.  

But in an indication that Labour can eventually recover support in both regions, the survey’s trust barometer shows Robert Abela leading Bernard Grech by a substantial margin in both regions. 

Moreover, Labour’s losses in the south east are partly compensated by its inroads in the PN leaning northern district where it enjoys a two-point lead over the PN.  Labour’s lead in the northern region corresponds to a strong performance of third parties (11%) in this region which includes localities like St Paul’s Bay. 

Overall, the survey shows labour leading in four regions namely the south harbour, the western region, the northern region and Gozo and the PN leading in the north harbour and south eastern regions. 

Significantly, the two major parties are presently neck and neck or within five points of each other in all regions except the south harbour region where Labour enjoys a massive 26-point lead. This suggests that Labour’s attempts to lure back disgruntled voters in the region by increasing the representation of the Second District in the Cabinet has partly paid off. 

Richest and poorest are more likely to vote 

The survey shows that abstention is lowest among those earning less than €1,000 (30%) monthly and among those earning more than €4,000 (25%) monthly. These are two categories where Labour is leading the PN by six points. In contrast Labour enjoys a smaller four-point advantage among those earning between €1,000 and €2,000 while the PN leads by less than a point among those earning between €2,000 and €4,000. 

This suggests that Labour manages to hold onto a coalition which includes both low income groups benefitting from its welfare policies and high income earners who benefit from its more laissez fair policies. But the party faces increased disgruntlement among middle income earners who are more likely to abstain. 

While abstention is higher among tertiary educated voters (45%), who traditionally lean towards the PN, it is also remarkably high among post-secondary educated voters (43%), a category which tilted towards Labour in most post-2008 surveys conducted by MaltaToday.  


TRUST BAROMETER: Abela leads Grech by 24 points

The MaltaToday trust barometer shows Prime Minister Robert Abela increasing his trust lead over Opposition leader Bernard Grech by four points since December. 

Abela’s trust rating now stands at 41.1% compared to Grech’s 16.7%. 

The PN leader has seen his trust rating drop by four points since December and by seven points since November. This represents Grech’s worst trust rating in the past year. 

The gap between the two leaders has increased from 14.4 points in November to 16.4 points in December and 24 points in January. 

But the survey also shows that a relative majority of 42% up from 41% in December, trust neither of the two main political leaders. 

Majority of PN voters distrust Grech 

In a clear indication that Bernard Grech’s leadership remains on shaky grounds, a staggering 51% of PN voters in the 2022 general election, trust neither of the two political leaders while a further 4% trust Abela. This means that only 46% of PN voters trust their leader down from 56% in December. 

Even among respondents who currently intend voting PN, 40% trust neither Grech nor Abela and only 53% trust Grech. This means that a segment of respondents do not trust Grech but would still vote PN. 

Bernard Grech remains the PN's weakest link
Bernard Grech remains the PN's weakest link

Grech’s poor trust rating suggests that he remains his party’s weakest link in contrast to Abela who is trusted by 75% of PL voters in 2022, up from 71% in December. Moreover 94% of current PL voters trust Abela, up from 83% in the previous survey. This suggests that Abela’s overtures to the party’s grass roots by warming up to his predecessor Joseph Muscat may have paid off. 

Grech remains less trusted than Abela in the crucial category of current non-voters. In this category, while 26% trust Abela only 4.6% trust Grech. 

This means that Labour may have more room for future growth on election day. 

Still, despite retaining a substantial lead over Grech, the PL leader is still distrusted by a substantial 25% of Labour voters in 2022.   

Distrust of leaders highest among middle income earners 

The survey shows that the highest percentage of respondents who trust neither of the two leaders is found among those earning between €2,000 and €3,000 a month. In this category a remarkable 57% trust neither of the two leaders. 

These are followed by those earning a monthly income of between €1,000 and €2,000, among which 46% trust neither leader. Lower levels of distrust are registered by those earning less than €1,000 a month (33%), those earning between €3,000 and €4,000 a month (30%) and those earning more than €4,000 a month (51%). 

This suggests that distrust in the political establishment is highest among those in the middle-income brackets. This tallies with high levels of distrust among both post-secondary educated (46%) and tertiary educated voters (58%). 

And in a clear indication that the PN leader is not able to shore up support among the disgruntled middle class, Bernard Grech’s trust rating falls to 10% among those earning between €2,000 and €3,000 a month. 

Grech’s trust rating is highest among those earning between €3,001 and €4,000 (32%) but falls to a miserable 4% among those earning more than €4,000. 

Curiously, Abela’s trust rating is highest on the two opposite poles of the income spectrum; among those earning less than €1,000 (44%) and those earning more than €4,000 (46%). This suggests that by marrying social welfare with pro-business policies, Abela strikes a chord with both low income earners who were specifically targeted in the budget and the most affluent categories who benefit from Labour’s economically liberal policies.  

But Abela’s trust rating falls to 33% among those earning between €2,000 and €3,000 a month in an indication that this bracket, which does not benefit from welfare payments, is feeling the brunt of the pain caused by inflation. 

Majority of young voters distrust both leaders 

As was the case in December, the survey shows a higher level of distrust in the two leaders among the 16- to 35-year-olds (54%) and those aged between 36 and 50 (50%).  

But while Abela’s trust rating ranges between 36% among 16- to 35-year olds and 44% among those aged between 36 and 50, Grech’s trust rating is more volatile ranging from a miserable 6% among 36- to 50-year olds to 33% among those aged over 65. 

Abela receives boost in south harbour 

In a clear indication that Abela’s strategy of pandering to the party’s grass roots has partly paid off, his trust rating in the south harbour region which includes Labour’s Cottonera strongholds, has increased from 48% in December to 54% now. 

But Abela did not make any substantial inroads in the Labour leaning south eastern region which includes localities like Marsaskala, Żurrieq and Birżebbuġa. In this electorally strategic district where Labour has made major inroads in the past decade, a relative majority of 44% trust neither of the two leaders. Significantly, a relative majority also trusts neither leader in the PN-leaning northern (51%), north harbour (43%) and western districts (40%). But Abela enjoys a relative majority in Gozo (43%).


GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE BAROMETER: Abela's administration gets 2.8 out 5 marks

MaltaToday’s Government Performance Barometer shows the government improving its rating from 2.6 in December to 2.8 now. 

This represents the highest rating for the government since MaltaToday introduced this gauge of government performance in May 2023. 

In the first performance rating after January's reshuffle, Abela's administration scores 2.8 out of 5
In the first performance rating after January's reshuffle, Abela's administration scores 2.8 out of 5

Respondents are asked to give the administration a mark between 0 (very bad) and 5 (very good). 

The government is given a pass in all demographic groups except current PN voters (1.8), PN voters in the 2022 election (2) and non-voters in the 2022 general election (2.4). 

Significantly, among the current crop of non-voters the Abela government manages to scrape the pass mark; with its rating increasing from 2.3 in December to 2.6 now.  

This suggests that the government’s focus on inflation through an agreement with supermarkets aimed at price stability, coupled with budgetary measures aimed at low income earners have partly paid off in restoring the feel good factor. 

Moreover, the survey suggests a consolidation of support for the government among Labour voters. While current Labour voters give the government 4 points out of 5 up from 3.7 in December, Labour voters in 2022 give the government 3.5 marks, up from 3.2 just two months ago.   

The government also gets a positive rating in all regions in a range between 2.7 in the south east, the north and the north harbour regions, to 3.1 in the South harbour.    

While the higher rating in the deep red south harbour region suggest that the government has shored up support in Labour’s heartlands, the relatively lower rating in the southeastern region suggests that pale red voters are still restless. 

A breakdown by income shows the government getting its best score (2.9) among those earning between €1,000 and €2,000 a month and those earning less than €1,000 (2.8). In contrast the government gets a lower rating of between 2.6 and 2.7 among those earning more than €2,000, who are less likely to benefit from the budget measures. 

The government gets a pass park among all educational brackets with its rating ranging between 2.6 among the tertiary educated and 3 among those with a primary level of education.