Labour’s lead grows to 20,000 as PN is punished harder in politically charged climate

MaltaToday survey: VOTING | PL: 49.4%, PN: 41.7%, Other: 8.9%; ­Turnout: 69.4%  • TRUST RATING | Robert Abela: 36.8%, Bernard Grech: 26.1%, None: 37.1%

Labour is leading the Nationalist Party by 19,864 votes, an eight-point gap, despite experiencing a decrease in support, a MaltaToday survey shows. 

The survey was conducted between 3 and 10 May, a politically tumultuous week when charges were filed against former prime minister Joseph Muscat and others. 

The PL’s support dipped to 49.4% from 50.7% but a 2.5-point decrease for the PN contributed to a bigger gap between the two major parties. 

Support for the PN stood at 41.7%, while that for third parties and independent candidates almost doubled to 8.9%. 

In the last MaltaToday survey published on 5 May with data captured before the Vitals crisis erupted, the gap between the two main parties stood at 17,000 votes. 

In the latest survey, the turnout remained at a historic low of 69%  

Despite the epochal events linked to the Vitals case, the results do not suggest any dramatic changes except for a small increase in Labour’s turnout particularly in its southern heartlands. 

The survey suggests that Labour risks losing its absolute majority in the European Parliament election. It also indicates a significant shift from both the PN and the PL to third parties. While the PL loses 3.9% of its 2022 voters to third parties, the PN loses 4.5%. 

The survey also registers a small but significant shift from the PL to the PN. While Labour loses 4.4% of its voters in 2022 to the PN, the latter only loses 0.4% of its voters to Labour. 

But these gains for the Opposition are offset by a greater abstention rate among PN voters.      

Abstention now penalising PN 

The survey suggests that the increased political polarisation has not resulted in any overall increase in the turnout. In the 5 May survey, the turnout stood at 71%. This has now hit 69%. 

Before the current political crisis, the PL was losing 23% of its 2022 voters to abstention and the PN was losing 15%. The PN is now losing 22% of its voters to abstention and the PL 20%. 

This suggests that while the PL’s efforts to galvanise its voters by rallying them against ‘the establishment’ have partly paid off, the PN still struggles to mobilise its voters by once again embarking on an anti-corruption crusade, which may give these voters a sense of déjà vu. 

Moreover, the PN makes no inroads among non-voters in 2022, 77% of which intend not voting again and only 7% would vote PN.  But while the PL gains 7% of these voters, 9% opt for third parties. This suggests that the PN is not winning back voters which had deserted the party on the eve of the 2022 general election. 

PL winning in all age groups  

The survey shows Labour leading in all age groups, but its advantage is substantially narrowed among middle aged respondents, a category which is more likely to include more financially hard-pressed families with dependent children. 

Among 36- to 50-year-olds Labour leads the PN by just 2.9 points. This category also includes a significant number of non-voters (38.8%). 

And while abstention drops to 24.3% among 51- to 65-year-olds, the PL only leads by 2.5 points. 

Abstention drops to 19% among over 65-year-olds where Labour leads by 9.6 points. 

Support for third parties peaks at 9.8% among 16- to 35-year-olds, a category which also includes a substantial 39.5% who are intent on not voting. Despite the high abstention rate, Labour still leads the PN by 5.9 points in this cohort. 

PL dominates the south and Gozo 

The survey shows the PL augmenting or retaining its strong lead in the southern regions and Gozo, while the PN leads in the North Harbour and the Western regions.  

But in the Northern region, which includes Mosta, Naxxar and St Paul’s Bay, the major parties are neck to neck, with the PN leading by a statistically insignificant 0.5 points.    

The PN’s lead is more consistent in the North Harbour region, which includes Sliema, St Julians and Birkirkara, where it leads by 11.6 points and in the Western region which includes Attard, Rabat, Siggiewi and Zebbug where the party commands a nine-point lead. 

On the other hand, Labour leads by a more substantial 28.8-point margin in the South Harbour region which includes Cottonera  and by 24.5 in the Southeast (which includes Birzebbuga, Marsaskala and Zejtun). In Gozo the PL is leading by 10.2 points. 

The survey shows abstention peaking in the PN-leaning North Harbour district (34.3%) and the more nuanced Western region (34%).   

In an indication that Labour has picked up support in its heartlands, abstention in the South Harbour region has declined from 31.3% in April to 27.7% now while support for Labour has increased from 42.8% to 48%. 

In the Southeastern region a drop of 6.9 point in the abstention rate corresponded to an 8-point increase in support for Labour. 

This suggests that Abela’s strategy of galvanising core voters has paid off in the south of Malta but may well have come at a cost in the northern regions where the party has lost support.  This is particularly the case in the Western region where an 8.3-point increase in non-voters from April is corresponded by an 8.4 drop in the Labour vote. 

Although Labour leads the PN in Gozo by 10 points, even here a 4-point increase in non-voters corresponded to a 4-point decrease in support for Labour. 

Third parties make inroads among mid income voters 

Support for third parties is peaking at 13.9% among respondents earning between €2,001 and €3,000. 

This category also registers the highest abstention rate (37.7%) and the lowest score for the PN (20.9%). 

The survey shows Labour leading among respondents earning less than €3,000 and the PN leading among respondents earning €3,001 or more.   

Support for Labour is highest among those earning less than €1,000 (37.9%) and lowest among those earning more than  €3,001 (18.9%). 

And while the PN leads Labour by 11.5 points among tertiary educated voters, it fails to make any gains among the post-secondary educated, a category which includes people who continued their studies after secondary school in institutions like Cast but who did not attend university.   

Within this category where abstention peaks at 40.2% the PL still leads the PN by 4.5 points.  This confirms trends in previous surveys pointing at the PN’s inability to make inroads in this category despite increased disaffection with government.   

Labour also leads the PN by 11.9 points among the secondary educated and by a staggering 36.9 points among respondents with a primary level of education. 

Support for third parties is highest among the tertiary educated respondents (11.1%) and lowest among those with a primary level of education (0.6%). 

Trust gap reduces but a relative majority trusts no one 

 A relative majority of 37.1% do not trust Robert Abela and Bernard Grech, MaltaToday’s latest survey shows. 

Meanwhile, Abela’s trust rating has plummeted to 36.8% from 45.9% in March when the last Trust Barometer was published. Bernard Grech’s trust rating now stands at 26.1%, an increase from 21.7% in March. 

These figures emerge from MaltaToday’s Trust Barometer in which respondents are asked which of the two political leaders enjoys their trust. 

Respondents who do not trust either of the two leaders have increased by a remarkable five points, particularly among the 16- to 35- year-old cohort, where respondents who trust neither of the two leaders have increased from 42.9% to a staggering 56%. 

The narrowed gap between the two political leaders is explained by a drop in Abela’s trust rating among Labour voters in the 2022 general election and a significant increase in Grech’s trust rating among PN voters in the same election. 

While Grech has seen his trust rating among PN voters increase by 11 points from just 55.4% in March to 67.5% now, trust in Abela among Labour voters has decreased by 12.3 points from 87% in March to 74.7% now. 

This drop in Abela’s trust rating among PL voters corresponds to an increase in Labour voters who trust neither of the two leaders, up from 11.1% in March to 22.3% now. The amount of 2022 Labour voters who trust neither leader is now slightly higher than the amount of Labour voters who are intent on not voting in forthcoming MEP elections (20%). 

But the survey also shows that 6% of current Labour voters do not trust Abela even if they will still vote for the party. 

Abela’s deflated trust rating suggests that he may be paying the price for his difficult balancing act following the conclusion of the magisterial inquiry on the hospitals scandal.   While Abela has tried to contain losses among Labour voters angry at seeing his predecessor charged on his watch by using harsh words directed at the judiciary, his antics may have dented trust among other categories of voters. 

Grech recovers among PN voters 

On the other hand, Grech’s strong stance in defence of the judiciary seems to have paid off among PN voters where his trust rating has shot up by 11 points. 

But despite the boost in his trust rating, Grech remains distrusted by 30.3% of PN voters in 2022 and fails to make any significant inroads among PL voters. Only 3% of PL voters in 2022 trust Grech more than Abela while 2.6% of PN voters trust Abela more than Grech. 

And among non-voters in the 2022, elections 83.2% distrust both leaders, 10.2% trust Abela and only 6.7% trust Grech. This suggests that Grech’s post inquiry antics still leave a significant portion of PN voters cold while failing to make substantial inroads among other categories of voters. Still 29.5% of current PN voters will still vote for the party despite their distrust of Grech. In contrast the vast majority of 2022 Labour voters who distrust Abela are also intent on not voting.   

Abela leads Grech in all age groups 

Despite the overall losses, the survey shows Abela leading Grech in all age groups. 

But in a clear sign of a loss of trust in both leaders among younger voters, a staggering 55.5% of under 35-year-old voters, up from 42.9% in February do not trust either of the two leaders. 

In this age bracket only 15.6% trust Grech while 28.9% trust Abela. This suggests that a 12.6-point increase of young people who trust neither leader since February corresponds with a 12.1-point drop in Abela’s trust rating while Grech has retained the same score. Distrust in political leaders is also widespread (44.8%) among those aged 36 to 50, where Abela leads Grech by eight points. But in this category Grech has seen his trust rating increase by 11 points at Abela’s expense.  Abela also leads Grech by 7.4 points among those aged between 51 and 65 and by 14 points among those aged over 65. 

The survey also shows that Abela enjoys a stronger lead among males (12.6 points) than among females (6.8 points). 

Abela leads in four out of six regions 

Abela emerges as the most trusted political leader in the South Harbour, the Southeastern region, the Northern region and Gozo while Grech prevails in the North Harbour region and the Western region. 

Abela leads by 33.8 points in the Southeastern region and by 30 points in the South Harbour. Abela also leads Grech in Gozo by 15.5 points in Gozo. Abela also enjoys a more restricted 5.1-point lead in the Northern district. This lead is particularly significant in a region where the two parties are neck to neck in terms of voting intentions. On his part Grech leads by just 2.5 points in the Western region and by 7.1 points in the North Harbour region - two areas where the PN is also leading. 

The survey also shows Abela leading Grech among those earning under €3,000 and Grech leading among those earning more than €3,001. Distrust in both leaders peaks at 50.2% among those earning between €2,001 and €3,000.