Gonzi's divorce referendum finds majority support: read full MaltaToday survey

A MaltaToday survey on divorce has shown that 59% of respondents were in favour of the introduction of divorce in Malta.


A MaltaToday survey shows support for divorce has reached an all time high of 59%. This is the highest level of support for the introduction of divorce since 1995 when the first survey on this issue was held. The survey also shows that an overwhelming majority wants this issue to be decided upon through a national referendum.

These are the major findings of a MaltaToday survey held among 320 respondents between Monday and Thursday. Support for divorce has increased by six percentage points since April when a MaltaToday survey showed that 53% backed the introduction of divorce.

The survey comes in the wake of a private member’s bill presented by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, which catapulted the divorce issue to the centre of political discussion.

The proposed bill recommends that divorce is only granted to people who have been living apart from their partner for at least four of the previous five years – thus allaying fears of instant ‘Las Vegas-style’ divorce.

The question asked in the survey – “Do you agree with the introduction of divorce for persons who have lived apart from their partners for the past four years?” – reflected the proposal tabled in parliament.

Significantly, 41% gave an unqualified yes when asked whether divorce should be introduced, while 19% qualifies their answer insisting that divorce should only be introduced in certain circumstances.

This could be an indication that support for divorce is still highly qualified among a  category which only views divorce as a solution to irremediable breakdown caused by violence or marital infidelity.

In fact among this particular category, which supports divorce in particular circumstances, only 20% think that incompatibility in living together is enough of a reason to justify divorce.

But 74% would grant divorce in case of infidelity, and 95% would grant it in cases involving violence or abuse.

Support for divorce is more clear-cut among those aged between 18 and 34 years of age. Among this category, 54% gave an unqualified ‘yes’ to the introduction of divorce, while a further 19% agreed with divorce in particular circumstances, thus bring the total of those agreeing with some form of divorce among to youngest age group to 73%.

Support for divorce is also strong among those aged between 34 and 55, 62% of whom agree with some form of divorce. It is only among over 55-year-olds that an anti-divorce majority of 54% still triumphs.

Support for divorce is also higher among those with a higher education, and lowest among those with a primary education. Agreement is highest among those with a university education: 67% of whom favour its introduction.

On the other hand, support is lowest among those with a primary level of education, 56% of which oppose its introduction.

Support for divorce is also significantly higher among those whose family includes someone who was previously married but is now living with a new partner. Among this category, support for divorce rises to a staggering 71%.

The survey also shows that 55% of all respondents had a relative living in this situation, a clear indication of the new social realities affecting a large section of Maltese society.

Political dynamics of divorce
The survey also confirms that support for divorce is stronger among Labour voters (75%) than among Nationalist voters (49%). It also shows that for the first time a pro divorce majority (relative, in the case of the PN) exists in both parties.

This suggests a remarkable increase in Nationalist voters favouring divorce up from 35% in 2007 to 49% now. But this data must be analysed with caution, due to the relatively small sample of respondents who stated which party they had voted for in the 2008 general election.

Still, a significant portion of Nationalist voters seems to favour the introduction of divorce. This is particularly significant in view of the current battle for the party’s soul, and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s express position against divorce.

But the survey also indicates that the Nationalist Party stands to lose much more than the Labour Party if it introduces divorce.

While only 7% of Labour voters are less likely to vote for their party if it includes divorce in its electoral manifesto, 16% of Nationalist voters say they are less likely to vote for their party if it introduces divorce.

Significantly, the electorate seems to be confused by the stance taken by the different political parties, with 65% unable to choose which party has the best position on this issue.

Surprisingly the most politically disoriented respondents were those opposed to divorce. Among this category, 76% could not choose a party with which they agree on the divorce issue.

The Labour Party, whose leader supports divorce and has promised a free vote in parliament to his MPs, emerges as the favoured choice of 18% of respondents.

The PN, currently facing internal unrest on this issue, was only chosen by 12%. AD, which to date remains the only party with a clear stance in favour of divorce stand, is seen as the party with the best policy on the issue by 4.4% of respondents.

Support for AD’s pro divorce stance rises to 10% among respondents with a post secondary or university education.

58% want a referendum
The survey also indicates that a large majority of people would like the issue settled by referendum. This could be an indication that when hinting at a referendum, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was well in synch with public opinion.

In fact, only 12% would like the issue settled through a free vote in Parliament, as proposed by opposition leader Joseph Muscat.

Support for a referendum cuts across both party lines and opinions on divorce. It is highest among PN voters (72%) but also registers high levels among LP voters (65%). Support for a referendum is higher among the pro-divorce camp (61%) but is also significant among the anti-divorce camp (48%).

Yet a large sector of the anti-divorce camp (31%) thinks that there is no need to take a decision on this issue.

Support for a free vote in Parliament is highest among those favouring divorce (19%) and among Labour supporters (14%).

Despite their preference for a referendum, an overwhelming majority of 76% would still like a free vote among MPs if a divorce bill is tabled in parliament. While opposition leader Joseph Muscat is firmly committed to a free vote, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has refused to reciprocate.

Surprisingly, the survey also shows greater support for Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando’s decision to present a private members bill among Labour voters than among Nationalist voters.

While 64% of Labour voters think Pullicino Orlando has done the right thing, only 47% of PN voters think likewise.

More in Data & Surveys
Martin Scicluna
How come the church of Zebbug done the Bill Board that God against Divorce? Do the Curia Agree with it? What we heard People are favour against Divorce. Yes i agree. I know families ready to divorce thanks to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. But one think Refendum should be held not in Parliament then people decide
Alfred Galea
70% are in favour of divorce, RCC speaks out against it and people dump on the church. 87% are against human trafficking /illegal immigrants, the RCC speaks in favour of it but people do not dump on the church. If we're gonna come out in favour of what the majority wants we have to be consistent.
Opinion Polls show over 73% ub favour of divorce - again over 70% want it passed through referendum and also now 60% from both PL & PN are in favour so wake up dear RCC where are those holy and profound catholics in Malta? you are damaging your credability just look around you and put your ears to the ground you have brought this upon yourself annulments take years and years to be done with while the persons involved grow older and again harder to start a new and legal family life The era of us Maltese on our death beds leaving all to our Church so we go to heaven club class is history now so no more playing with we choose to believe in
Proset Dr Pullicino Orlando out of all our holy Parlamentarains you were the only one with guts all the rest are cowards because they might loose future votes - keep pushing this subject till it is made law as we are the laughing stock of europe on this subject and dear RCC quit interfering in state affairs as we don't interfere in your affairs which brings us to the subject when are we going to see the so called priests and nuns who commited atrocities to children in orphanages in court - or are these untouchables and above law?? with all due respect yr Grace mind your own business on this delicate subject you have full rights to state your opinion but it ends there and not influence our Politicians by stating they must vote against etc as they are Roman Catholic and all these stupid comments - better start seeing what your troops are doing inside your own community