Labour lead as at 2008, but swing doubles

Swing to Labour increase from 4 to 8 points, as support is level as at January 2008

Putting his name on it... Muscat starts the 2013 electoral campaign with the polls firmly in his favour.
Putting his name on it... Muscat starts the 2013 electoral campaign with the polls firmly in his favour.


Labour is practically at the same level of support it enjoyed at the end of January 2008 just before the start of that same year's electoral campaign, when it enjoyed a six-point leader over the PN, MaltaToday surveys show.

The comparison emerges in the comparison between the last survey conducted before the 2008 electoral campaign in January 2008, and the last survey conducted before the beginning of the 2013 campaign in the second week of December 2012.

The latest survey shows the PL enjoying the lowest level of support in 2012, during which support had ranged from 31% in December to 41.2% back in September.

But while in 2008 Labour was six points ahead of the PN, it now enjoys an eight-point lead.

On the other hand, the PN starts this year's race 1.6 points below 2008 levels.

Support for the PN during 2012 ranged between 22% in December and 29% in September. Moreover, while the February 2008 survey registered a 3.6-point swing from the PN to the Labour Party, the 2012 survey registers an 8-point swing.

Back in 2008 the PN had managed to wipe out Labour's pre-campaign advantage and win the general election by a wafer-thin 1,500-vote majority.

The task now seems more daunting for the PN, because the PL starts the race benefiting from a higher swing in its favour than in 2008.

But past surveys show that the electoral campaign itself can change the political dynamics of the race.

MaltaToday surveys in 2008 had shown the PN catching up and eventually overtaking Labour during the final weeks of the electoral campaign, mainly thanks to an increase in support for the PN among new voters, which compensated for the swing in Labour's favour. 

Moreover, contrary to 2008, Labour starts the race with the advantage of having a more trusted leader than Lawrence Gonzi.

Bigger swing than in 2008

While in February 2008, 6% of PN voters in the previous election declared their intention to vote for Labour, in the latest MaltaToday surveys 9.6% of PN voters in the previous election declare their intention to vote for the PL.

Moreover while in 2008, 2.4% of PL voters declared their intention to vote for the PN, only 1.5% of PL voters have the same intention now.

The eight-point swing registered in MaltaToday's latest survey is even more damning for the PN, because while in 2008 the PN was defending a 3.8 point majority which emerged from the polls in 2003, the PN is now defending a 1,500-vote majority of less than a percentage point.

Green party Alternattiva Demokratika was slightly more popular in 2008 than it is now. 

While on the eve of the 2008 campaign AD enjoyed 2%, in the latest survey AD enjoyed the support of 1.4% of voters - the same level the party scored in the 2008 election.

AD's support over the past year has ranged between 1.3% in January and 2% in March and the first week of December.

Back in 2008, AD was also benefiting from a larger swing from the PN. While today only 0.6% of PN voters intend to vote for the Greens, in 2008, 3% of PN voters expressed the same intention. But this could well have been the result of core AD voters returning back to the party after having voted PN in 2003 because of the EU membership issue.

While AD started of the 2008 electoral campaign from the minimal 0.7% level of support gained in the 2003 election, in 2013 the party starts from the 1.3% level gained in 2008. 

Interestingly the number of undecided voters and non-voters is similar in both surveys although a higher percentage of respondents refused to state their intentions in 2008.

Gonzi less trusted than in 2008

In 2008 Lawrence Gonzi was more trusted than PL leader Alfred Sant, but now he is less trusted than PL leader Joseph Muscat.

Joseph Muscat is by far more trusted than Alfred Sant was in 2008.  While Sant enjoyed the trust of 31% of respondents before the start of the electoral campaign in 2008, Muscat now enjoys the trust of 37%.

And while Gonzi enjoyed a 3-point lead over Sant, Gonzi now trails Muscat by 11 points.

A year of surveys

2012 started with Labour enjoying a 9-point lead over the PN amid rumours of an imminent election after Franco Debono threatened to bring the government down following a government reshuffle at the beginning of January, and ending with the PL enjoying an 8-point lead after the government lost the budget vote and elections were called.

This suggests that little has changed over the past months with Labour holding on to its lead.

But in reality, the prolongation of the crisis after the government survived a confidence vote in January at first worked in the PL's favour with the gap increasing to a staggering 14 points in March; and then against it, with the gap being narrowed to 11 points in May following the no-confidence vote in Carm Mifsud Bonnici.

But expectations of an imminent election boosted Labour's fortunes in Autumn, with the gap remaining steady at 12 points in the months of September and October. But the two post-budget surveys have shown the PN narrowing the gap first to 9 and then to 8 points.

The PN reached its lowest ebb in February just after surviving a confidence vote with the speaker's casting vote and after Gonzi called for a leadership contest in which he stood as the sole candidate when the party attracted the support of 22% of respondents.

Support for the PL peaked in March (39%) and again in September and October when the party surpassed the 40% mark. But the party registered its lowest level of support in December when it garnered 31%. This suggests that the party was fully geared for an election after the summer recess but the prolongation of the government's life to December has had a negative impact on Labour.

Support for the Greens remained roughly the same, oscillating between 1.3 and 2.3 percent, with the greens seeing a peak in support in March on the eve of local elections and in the beginning of December.

The number of undecided shot up from 25% in October to 29% immediately after the budget to a staggering 39% after the government lost its majority.

Surprisingly Gonzi scored his highest trust rating (35%) in January at the peak of his first confrontation with Franco Debono, but subsequently lost 7 points after surviving the first confidence vote of the year when Debono abstained and when Gonzi called for an internal vote in his party to confirm him as leader. In the next months his trust rating oscillated between 28% and 32%.

Both Gonzi and Muscat registered their lowest trust ratings in the second week of December after the government lost its majority in parliament.

On his part, Muscat's trust ratings peaked on the eve of local elections in March and in October where his trust rating surpassed the 45% mark.  But following the budget Muscat saw a 7-point drop in his trust rating.

More in Data & Surveys
I think that one and all knows whether they will be voting or not, and to who they will be giving their vote. In Malta that 39.9% who does know means that that % are scared to tell other what they think. I have worked election and took part in politicis for over 35 years and one can practically forcast an election result. Civil servants especially (those who like to lick asses) don't show their hands because they wants to suck from both nipples. I am proud to say that in 34 years in the civil service I never cared who was in power and always did my job as it should have been done. What I had to collect I collected from one and all and those who know me can vouch for this. Even some MPs came before me for something and I never bent the rules for anyone. The Maltese used to pay for my wages from their hard earned taxes and my priority was that I was duty and morally bound to do exactly that. I hope one day the whislte blower's Act will come into force retro active for the last 30 years, and I will be one of the first ones to come forward.