MaltaToday survey | War in Gaza is greatest problem facing EU

The war in Gaza trumps the war in Ukraine, inflation, immigration and climate change as the greatest problem facing the European Union according to Maltese voters. James Debono analysis the findings of the latest MaltaToday survey

File photo
File photo

One in four respondents in the latest MaltaToday survey referred to the ongoing war in Gaza as the greatest challenge facing the European Union now.

Respondents were asked to state which is the greatest problem facing the EU without being prompted to choose from a list of concerns.

The other major concerns at EU level, according to Maltese voters are inflation (16.5%), immigration (16.4%) and the ongoing war in Ukraine (16%).

Other less mentioned concerns include corruption (10%), EU policies and structures (2.5%) and climate change (2.2%).

A breakdown by political allegiance suggests that while PL voters tend to be more concerned by the war in the Middle East, PN voters tend to be more concerned by the war in Ukraine.

The war in the Middle East was flagged as a concern by 34% of PL voters and 20% of PN voters, while the war in Ukraine was indicated as a top concern by 24% of PN voters and 13% of PL voters.

Non-voters were also more likely to mention the war in the Middle East (24%) rather than the war in Ukraine (14%).

This suggests that the EU’s weak response to the Israeli assault on Gaza, which has already left 28,000 dead, including 12,000 children following a Hamas massacre of 1,200 Israelis, is likely to emerge as an important theme in the forthcoming MEP election alongside bread-and-butter issues like inflation and immigration.

There has been consensus between the two major parties in condemning both the Hamas massacre and the disproportionate Israeli response and continued occupation of Palestinian territories. However, European Parliament President and lead PN candidate Roberta Metsola has been criticised by Labour MEPs and civil society for not being as vociferous in condemning Israel as she was in her solemn condemnation of Hamas after the 7 October massacre.

Civil society organisations like Graffitti have also demanded a more vociferous response by the government, which has called for a ceasefire but has not supported South Africa’s case in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide.

Low concern on climate change

Surprisingly low in the pecking order, is climate change an existential threat facing humanity which was mentioned by only one in 50 respondents. Concern on climate was slightly higher among 16- to 35-year-olds (3.5%) and the tertiary educated (4%).

But this could well reflect the greater immediacy and horrific impact of the war in Gaza which has dominated the news cycle over the past weeks.

A breakdown by age shows that concern on inflation is higher among 16- to 35-year-olds.  Within this cohort concern on inflation (26%) trumped all other issues including the war in the Middle East which was mentioned by 18% of younger respondents. On the other hand, concern on the war in Gaza peaks among over 65 year olds (32%).

A regional breakdown largely reflects the political divide, with respondents in the North Harbour region perceiving the war in Ukraine triggered by Vladimir Putin’s invasion as the top challenge for the EU (26%), and respondents in the South Harbour saying the same about the war in the Middle East (38%).

A breakdown by education also shows that the war in the Middle East is perceived as the greatest problem facing the EU among respondents with a primary, secondary and post-secondary education. But among the tertiary educated concern on inflation (19%) was slightly higher than that on the war in Ukraine (18%) and the war in the Middle East (17%).

The survey was carried out was carried between 26th January 2024 and 5th February 2024 for which 647 people opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on region, gender and age was used. A fraction of those who opted to complete the survey chose not to answer a few of the questions for which they are treated as missing values. Missing values analysis was then carried to determine the type of technique to replace the values. A combination of deep machine learning and regression techniques was used to replace certain missing values completing and enlarging the sample set from which the final results were extracted.

The margin of error for this result 3.84% for a confidence interval of 95%.