MaltaToday Survey | Post-Budget: Muscat leads by 7 points, Labour by 3.5 points

Simon Busuttil makes inroads with 2008 Labour voters but loses ground among “switchers” – 40% of switcher today say they will not vote

The gap between Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil is now four points lower than it was a year ago
The gap between Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil is now four points lower than it was a year ago

MaltaToday’s post budget survey – after the speeches made by both political leaders in parliament and the conclusion of the budget debate – shows Prime Minister Joseph Muscat still leading Busuttil by 6.8 points, a marginal decrease of a point over September, when respondents were asked which leader they trusted the most.

The gap between the two leaders is now four points lower than it was a year ago after the budget, but before Panamagate made headlines.

The survey also shows the PL leading by 3.5 points, slightly up from 2.7 points in September. The difference still falls within the margin of error of the survey.  

But the survey confirms inroads made by the PN and its leader among traditional Labour voters, with Simon Busuttil emerging as the trusted choice of 8% of those who had voted for Alfred Sant’s PL in 2008, up from just 5% last month. It also shows 7% of these voters now intending to vote PN.

But the survey also shows Busuttil losing some ground among switchers, among whom he loses 13 points. The survey shows a relative majority of switchers (43%) trust neither Muscat nor Busuttil, and do not intend to vote in a forthcoming election (39%).

Overall there has been little change since MaltaToday’s last survey held in September, which suggests that the budget and the opposition’s criticism to it have not altered the political landscape significantly. 

Both political leaders have seen a slight drop in support, with Muscat losing one point and Busuttil losing half a point, which was reflected in a small increase of those who trust neither leader or who are undecided. 

Both political leaders remain more popular than their respective party. But while Joseph Muscat’s trust rating is seven points higher than the support for his party, Busuttil’s trust rating is four points higher than support for his party. This indicates that Labour has space for future growth among that category of electors who prefer Muscat to Busuttil, but who are not committed with regard to voting intentions. 

7% of PL voters shifting to PN

While Labour starts with this notable advantage, MaltaToday’s survey confirms a shift in favour of the PN.

While only 1.5% of PN voters in 2013 say they would now vote Labour, 6.8% (up from 6%) of PL voters in 2013 now say they will vote PN.  

But the survey shows that only 18% of switchers (down from 33% in September) intend to vote PN. On the other hand Muscat has gained two points among switchers. It has to be noted that due to the small size of switchers represented in the survey, these results are only indicative.

But this suggests that in the past weeks the PN has made more inroads among traditional Labour voters than among switchers. 

In fact 7% of PL voters in 2008 (up from 4% in September) would now vote PN. But the PN’s inroads do not add up sufficiently to overturn Labour’s overall lead.  

In this sense the survey confirms the emergence of a small category of switchers who voted for Alfred Sant’s Labour in 2008 who not only reject Muscat’s party now but are willing to vote PN and prefer Busuttil to Muscat. 

This shift may explain why the PN leader has been making a concerted effort to appeal to these voters by focusing on issues like increasing the minimum wage. 

Simon Busuttil himself is slightly more popular than his party among Labour voters of 2008. While 8% of these voters prefer Busuttil to Muscat, 7% of these voters would vote for the PN now.

But the survey confirms that the PN has not entirely blocked the haemorrhage of votes to Muscat’s Labour, which started in 2008 after the election of Muscat as PL leader. 

2% of PN voters who voted for Gonzi’s party in 2013 have now shifted to Labour while 3% of these voters prefer Muscat to Busuttil. This suggests that Muscat has not entirely lost the power to seduce a segment of the Nationalist electorate. This may also be a reflection of the party’s pro-business stance and its appeal to segments and lobbies traditionally closer to the PN.  Moreover 6% of PN voters in 2008 will now vote for the PL and 7% of these voters trust Muscat more than Busuttil. 

The survey also shows a 4.4% intent on voting for third parties. But the third-party vote is split between those intending to vote AD (2.1%), Marlene Farrugia’s Democratic Party (1.3%) and other small parties (1%). 

Support for third parties has remained at the same level as in September. But the survey shows the PN losing more support to AD (3% of its 2013 voters) than to the PD (1.5%) while the PL loses 1% to an assortment of other parties. 

Four out of 10 switchers not voting

Not voting remains a more appealing option for voters. In fact while 4.4% intend voting for a small party, a tenth of voters are intent on not voting.

Significantly four out of every 10 people who switched from the PN to the PL in 2013 are now saying that they will not vote.

Another significant segment of non-voters are PL voters from 2008, 9% of whom will not be voting. The percentage rises to 15% among the whole cohort of 2013 voters, who include both switchers and 2008 voters. Moreover 15% of Labour voters in 2013 trust neither Muscat nor Busuttil.

This suggests that Labour is facing three main problems: disgruntlement among switchers reflected in 39% of this category intending not to vote, disgruntlement among traditional Labour voters reflected in 9% of its 2008 voters intending not to vote and the inroads of the PN among both 2008 Labour voters and switchers.  

But these losses are compensated in a decrease in decided Labour voters from 13% in September to just 4% now. In fact Labour now retains 66% of its 2013 vote share, up from 64% last month.