Rate the minister survey: Home Affairs minister knocks education minister off top spot

Education and Social Policy Minister Dolores Cristina has not only lost the top notch as the best judged minister in Lawrence Gonzi’s Cabinet in four consecutive MaltaToday surveys, but has seen her positive rating drop by a remarkable 27 percentage points since last year.

  Positive rating % change (Nov 2009)
Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici 36.7 -10.1
Joe Cassar 36.3 -
Dolores Cristina 34.7 -27.4
Giovanna Debono 29.7 -12.5
George Pullicino 26.7 -4.5
Tonio Borg 26 -5.5
Tonio Fenech 22.3 -1.9
Austin Gatt 20 +0.8
Joe Cassar 36.3 -


  Negative rating % change (Nov 2009)
Austin Gatt 36.7 -11.8
Tonio Fenech 35.7 -11.1
Dolores Cristina 25.3 +13.7
George Pullicino 24.3 +2.4
Giovanna Debono 22.7 +6.4
Tonio Borg 20.7 +0.5
Joe Cassar 19.3 N/A
Austin Gatt 20 +0.8
Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici 17.1 +3.7

Cristina’s decline comes in the wake of a general drop in the government’s popularity, which is reflected in lower trust ratings for all Cabinet ministers… except Austin Gatt, who had already hit rock bottom in last year’s survey.

The general drop can be attributed to Labour voters becoming more negative on ministers’ performance over the past year. But Cristina, whose popularity also nosedived by 21% among PN voters, could be suffering from the blow she received following the European Commission’s decision to suspend funding for a number of educational programmes in May.

Despite persistent calls by the opposition for her resignation, only 2 percentage points separates her from justice and home affairs minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, who emerges as the most positively rated minister despite also seeing his popularity dip by 10 percentage points.

Apart from Cristina, Giovanna Debono – the other female member of the cabinet – was the only minister to lose ground among Nationalist voters.

On the other hand Cabinet newcomer Joe Cassar has emerged as the second best rated minister, at par with Cristina.

Despite remaining the worse judged ministers, both transport minister Austin Gatt and finance minister Tonio Fenech have gained ground among Nationalist voters. Tonio Fenech, who lost 2 percentage points over last year, has also seen his support among Nationalist voters rise by 10 percentage points. On his part, Austin Gatt was the only minister to improve from last year, thanks to a 15 percentage point increase among Nationalists. But in a clear indication of political animosity, both ministers get no ratings from Labour voters.

Overall the survey suggests that supporters of both parties have closed ranks during the past years, with Labour voters more inclined to judge ministers negatively.

On the other hand Nationalist voters were more likely to reward hardliners in the Cabinet. Curiously George Pullicino in his role as minister responsible for resources and rural affairs, was the only minister to improve his rating with Labour voters.


The survey was held between Thursday 14 and Wednesday 20 October. A total of 551 persons were randomly chosen from telephone directories. 300 accepted to be interviewed and the survey was stopped as soon as this quota sample was reached. The results were weighed to reflect the age and sex balance of the population as depicted in the latest demographic review issued by the National Office of Statistics. The survey has a margin of error of +/-5.7%. Respondents were also asked to state how they had voted in the 2008 general election.

Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici

                                         All (% change)              PN (% change)              PL (% change)

Positive                          36.7 (-10.1)                      70.8 (+6.8)                    17.9 (-11.1)

Negative                        17.7 (+3.7)                        3.4 (+1.1)                      53.8 (+23.6)

Fair                                  22 (-6.9)                           16.9 (-9.8)                     14.1 (-23.8)

Don’t know                    23.6 (+13.3)                     8.9 (+1.9)                       14.2 (+8.3)

Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici emerges as the most popular minister overall despite losing 10 percentage points from last year’s survey mainly due to an 11-point slip among Labour voters. This was only partly compensated by an increase in popularity among Nationalist voters. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici has emerged as the most popular minister in a year which saw the lowest number of immigrant arrivals in past five years. Mifsud Bonnici, a prolific writer, is also present in the media in his role as a party ideologue.

Joe Cassar

                              All (% change)        PN (% change)         PL (% change)

Positive                 36.3                          67.4                             15.4

Negative               19.3                           1.1                                57.7

Fair                        25                               24.7                             20.5

Don’t know          19.4                             6.8                                6.4

Health Minister Joe Cassar, a newcomer following a mini reshuffle after John Dalli’s appointment as EU commissioner, emerges as the second most popular minister. He also emerges as the second most popular minister among Labour voters, albeit with a trust rating of 15%. His rating is 4 percentage points lower than his predecessor and veteran John Dalli’s (whose ministry also included social policy) and the 39% positive rating in last year’s survey. Yet considering that Cassar is a political novice, his favourable trust rating indicates that his star is rising.

Dolores Cristina

                                 All (% change)      PN (% change)       PL (% change)

Positive                    34.7 (-26.4)            60.7 (-20.7)            11.5 (-29.2)

Negative                  25.3 (+13.7)           6.7 (+3.6)                69.2 (+39)

Fair                           19.3 (-3.3)              20.2(+5.1)                12.8 (-11.6)

Don’t know               20.7 (+16)            12.4 (+10.1)              6.5 (+1.8)

Dolores Cristina has seen her trust rating dip by a substantial 26 percentage points among all voters and by a staggering 21 percentage points among PN voters. Her negative rating among Labour voters has also increased by 39%.  In May Cristina has faced a storm of opposition after Malta was suspended from taking part in EU programmes under the Youth in Action and Life long learning programmes. This was followed by a motion of no-confidence in the minister which was defeated. Three senior officials at the Education Ministry who were blamed for the suspension of EU funds for students’ programmes by an inquiry board, resigned. Cristina denies any knowledge of EU correspondence warning Ministry officials of the mismanagement of EU funds. Cristina was also in the news this week after YMCA alleged that her Ministry had denied funding for its homeless shelter. The rift between government and YMCA resolved by the end of the week, coincided with the survey. In the next year Cristina will have to prove herself by presiding over a quite revolution in the educational sector which would see the end of the junior lyceum examinations and a more inclusive system.

Giovanna Debono

                                        All (% change)        PN (% change)           PL (% change)

Positive                           29.7 (-12.5)             64(-4.2)                         9(-9.6)

Negative                         22.7 (-6.4)               6.7(+0.4)                       60.3(+21.9)

Fair                                  25.7 (-4.5)               18(-0.4)                          24.4(0)

Don’t know                    21.9 (-1.7)                11.3  (+4.2)                   6.3(-12.3)

Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono, who kept her portfolio latest reshuffle despite reports that the Prime Minister wanted to shift her to other responsibilities, emerges as the second main casualty of the survey. Significantly Debono has lost 4 percentage points among Nationalist voters. Debono - a favourite target of Alfred Sant in his days as opposition leader – has largely escaped controversy. But she also faced internal competition as junior Minister Chris Said assumed a more visible role as parliamentary secretary responsible for local government and public dialogue. Despite Said’s resignation after he was formally charged of committing perjury, Debono has not gained any ground in the survey.


George Pullicino

                               All (% change)       PN (% change)          PL(% change)

Positive                  26.7 (-4.5)              58.4 (+7.2)                15.4 (+8.4)

Negative               24.3 (+8)                10.1 (+0.8)                   57.7 (+13.5)

Fair                        27.7 (-11.8)             22.5 (-12.4)                23.1 (-21.1)

Don’t know           21.3 (+13.9)           9 (+4.3)                        3.8 (-2.3)

Released from the MEPA hot potato which tarnished his image in the first Gonzi administration, George Pullicino seems to be faring better in his role as the minister responsible for embellishment projects like the new Marsaxlokk promenade and Qui-Si-Sana gardens and parks. Pullicino has seen his positive rating among both Nationalist and Labour voters improve even if he has lost ground among voters who did not reveal their voting intentions. This can be attributed to a 14% increase in “don’t knows.” Significantly Pullicino is the only minister to gain ground among Labour voters.

In his less visible role as resources minister Pullicino has started addressing the problem of over extraction of ground water by making meters a requirement for anyone taking water from the ground, a decision which does not seem to have significantly dented his popularity.

Tonio Borg

                              All (% change)       PN (% change)         PL (% change)

Positive                26 (-5.5)                  60.7 (+4.4)                6.4(-2.9)

Negative              20.7 (+0.5)              3.4 (-1.2)                   60.2(+11.4)

Fair                       27.7 (-5.7)               19.1 (-8.5)                25.6(-3.5)

Don’t know          25.6 (-10.7)            16.8 (+5.3)                7.8(-5)

Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg seems to have gained ground among Nationalist voters but has lost ground among other categories of voters. Tonio Borg has surely not endeared himself with Labour voters, after being accused of a frame-up by the opposition, after notifying the Speaker that Labour MP Justyne Caruana had voted against a motion by the opposition, saving the government’s scalp after junior minister Mario Galea committed a ‘lapsus’ in a parliamentary vote, voting with the Opposition. In fact the number of Labour voters who judge his performance negatively has increased by 11.4%. Significantly 26% could not express a judgment on Borg’s role as minister. This could reflect his role as foreign minister which does not leave a tangible impact on everyday life.

Tonio Fenech

            All (% change)         PN (% change)        PL (% change)

Positive               22.3 (-1.9)                58.4 (+9.6)                 0(-1.2)

Negative             35.7 (-11.1)             10.1 (-8.5)                   82.1(-0.5)

Fair                       21(+1.9)                   22.5 (-8.9)                  12.8(0)

Don’t know          21 (+14.9)                9 (+7.8)                       5.1(+1.7)

Despite controversy on his latest admission that he found out that his maid was not registered with the VAT department, the finance minister seems to have weathered the storm despite taking over over Enemalta from Austin Gatt in the latest reshuffle. Significantly Fenech’s frontline role has gained him 10 percentage points among Nationalist voters. But Fenech hits rock bottom with Labour voters, getting an abysmal trust rating of 0%. This reflects the constant scrutiny of his ministry which includes the despised ARMS by the opposition.

Austin Gatt

                All (% change)          PN (% change)          PL (% change)

Positive                   20 (+0.8)                   49.4 (+14.5)                0(-4.7)

Negative                36.7 (-11.8)               19.1 (-6.5)                   84.6(+4.4)

Fair                          21.3 (-1)                    18 (-12.2)                    10.3(-2.5)

Don’t know            22 (+12)                    13.5 (+4.2)                    5.1(+2.8)

Deprived of responsibility over electricity bills and Enemalta following a damning Auditor report on the award of the Delimara power station contract, Gatt emerges as the only Minister to see a slight improvement of a percentage point over last year. This is mainly thanks to a 15 percentage point increase in his positive rating among Nationalist voters-which could indicate a hardening of the core vote which seems to reward more confrontational Ministers like Fenech, Borg and Gatt himself.  It could be an indication of greater appreciation for his role as transport minister where he has instituted a reform of taxis but the public would be in a better position to judge his performance once the public transport reform is in place.

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