Muscat 15 points ahead of Busuttil in trust barometer

FULL DATA from MaltaToday's survey

The first MaltaToday survey held after the sacking of then Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia in December shows opposition leader Simon Busuttil trailing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat by 15 points in the trust barometer, with Busuttil showing a slight decline compared to November.

The survey also shows the Prime Minister registering the lowest approval rating (44%) since April 2013, suggesting that the political earthquake which ultimately led to Mallia’s sacking, may have damaged Muscat without eroding his trust lead over Busuttil.

The survey was conducted among 500 respondents between Wednesday 7 and Tuesday, 13 January.

In an indication of disgruntlement with the entire political system, one fifth of voters say that they trust neither of the two political leaders.

Compared to November Muscat has slightly widened his advantage from 14 points in November to 15 points now, even if his approval rating has since slipped by a point. 

Significantly, the survey shows that while 12% of PN voters in 2013 trusted Muscat more than Busuttil, only 5% of PL voters (mostly former PN voters) trust Busuttil more than Muscat. 

The survey shows the PL leading the PN by nine points, and while Busuttil has gained some ground among switchers (people who voted PN in 2008 and PL in 2013), with 18% of them now preferring him to Muscat, the latter is still eating into the PN’s 2013-vote base, a trend confirmed by respondents’ present voting intentions.

For the survey shows that while 4% of those voting for the PL in 2013 will now vote for the PN, 6% of PN voters would vote PL, suggesting that the PN is still losing more votes to Labour than it is gaining.

44% approve Muscat’s performance

Muscat’s approval rating has continued to slip over the past weeks, decreasing by a point since November. Muscat had seen the percentage of respondents who judge his performance positively slip from 59% a month to 51% in October 2013. Since then his approval rating has slipped further to 45%. The latest survey shows the highest percentage ever of respondents who judge his performance as ‘so-so’ (35%).

The survey shows that 49% of respondents either judge Muscat’s performance negatively, or as ‘so-so’. But his approval rating remains substantially higher than that of Lawrence Gonzi in the 2008 to 2013 period. The highest ever approval rating for Gonzi stood at 38% in 2009. In subsequent surveys Gonzi’s approval rate hovered between 20% and 25%.

But despite seeing a steady decline in his approval rating, Muscat’s performance is still judged positively by 15% of those who voted for the PN in 2013.  

This suggests that the PN’s electorate is split between a substantial minority (15%) who express a positive judgement of the new government and a solid core (34%) that express a negative judgement. The majority of PN voters (47%) express a so-so judgement, suggesting that the PN’s electorate is not a homogeneous entity.

It may also suggest that PN voters may appreciate Muscat’s repositioning of his party to the centre-right on certain issues. Moreover the positive judgement of some PN voters may be the result of the positive economic results of the government, coupled with the power of incumbency, through which the new government holds the reins of patronage.

The survey shows some signs of disgruntlement among Labour voters.

4% of PL voters in 2013 judge Muscat’s performance negatively and a significant 16% of PL voters judge his performance as so-so. Among switchers a tenth judge the government’s performance negatively, while 36% give a so-so verdict.

This suggests that while Muscat has alienated a large segment of switchers he still manages to offset these losses by charming voters who opted for Gonzi in 2013.

Busuttil trailing by 15 points

The survey clearly shows that the small gains Simon Busuttil is making among switchers and some Labour voters, are being offset by more substantial losses among 2013 PN voters.

In fact the survey does bring Busuttil some good news from the switcher front. 

The survey suggests that one fifth of 2008 PN voters who defected to Labour in 2013 now prefer Busuttil to Muscat. Still despite this gain, 58% of this strategic category still prefer Muscat to Busuttil. Overall the survey shows that one in 20 Labour voters in 2013 now prefer Busuttil to Muscat.  

This suggests that Busuttil can appeal to a segment of PL voters alienated by Muscat.

But Muscat offsets these losses by making gains among 2013 PN voters, a tenth of whom prefer him to the Nationalist Party leader.  

This is further confirmation that Busuttil has not stopped the haemorrhage of PN voters, which has been ongoing since 2008.  

Interestingly the percentage of PN voters in 2013 who prefer Muscat to Busuttil is the same as the percentage of PN voters in 2008 who preferred Muscat to Gonzi in surveys held before the 2013 general election.  

Surprisingly the survey shows Busuttil registering a small two-point drop, compared to a one-point drop in the PM’s ratings. But these small movements may be attributable to the survey’s margin of error.

Compared to November the percentage of respondents who trust neither of the two leaders has doubled from 10% to 19.5%. The increase in voters who trust none of the two leaders is corresponded by a decrease in “don’t knows”. 

Labour leads by 9 points

For the first time since the 2013 general election, respondents were asked to state for which party they would vote if an election were to be held tomorrow. The survey shows Labour leading by nine points.  

Interestingly the survey shows that while 6.3% of PN voters in 2013 would now vote Labour, 4% of PL voters in 2013 would now vote for the PN. This suggests a small two-point shift from the PN to Labour.

This may suggest that Labour may have improved its standing slightly since the general election and also that Muscat’s personal appeal among a category of PN voters does not necessarily translate into a vote for Labour in a general election. 

The survey also suggests that while 15% of PN voters judge Muscat’s performance positively and 12% trust him more than Busuttil, only 6% would vote Labour in a general election.

On the other hand while only 5% of PL voters trust Busuttil more than Muscat and only 4% judge Muscat’s performance negatively, the same percentage of Labour respondents would vote PN in a forthcoming election.

This suggests that although Busuttil’s appeal among PL voters is limited, it is resulting in a definitive shift of allegiance for these voters. This is mostly the case with switchers, 12% of whom would now vote for the PN. The PL only manages to retain 45% of switchers if an election were held now.

The survey also shows the greens retaining most of their 2013 voters.

A substantial 13% would not vote if an election were held now. Significantly while 17% of PN voters replied that they won’t vote, only 9% of PL voters replied likewise.  But while 11% of PL voters are undecided, only 5% of PN replied in the same vein.

Nearly a third of switchers are now undecided on who to vote for.

The PL still retains more of its 2013 voters than the PN – while 67% of PN voters are sure of voting PN again, 74% of PL voters are sure of voting for their party again.

Accuracy of MaltaToday surveys

One of the reasons why MaltaToday surveys correctly predicted the outcome of the 2013 general election and other electoral appointments is that the sample of respondents correctly reflected the percentage of PN and PL voters in the previous general election.

This particular survey also includes a good representative sample.

In fact while 38.6% of respondents replied that they had voted PL in the last general election, 28.6% had voted PN while 1.6% had voted AD.

The 10-point difference between PL and PN 2013 voters is close to the 12-point difference between the two parties in the actual election. 


762 respondents were contacted by telephone between Wednesday 7 and Tuesday, 13 January. The survey was stopped when a 500-quota sample was reached.

Respondents were told that MaltaToday was conducting the survey. Its results were weighted to reflect the age and gender balance of the population.

The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.4%. Respondents were asked how they voted in the 2008 and 2013 elections.

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