Updated | MaltaToday Trust Barometer: Delia shows slight improvement as Muscat loses traction

Joseph Muscat’s trust rating has fallen by 9 points and now stands at 41%, dropping below his party’s strength for the first time in many years • Adrian Delia registers marginal improvement as his trust rating rises to 15.4%

Trust Barometer: Joseph Muscat drops to 41% as Adrian Delia improves slightly to 15.4%
Trust Barometer: Joseph Muscat drops to 41% as Adrian Delia improves slightly to 15.4%

Adrian Delia has registered his first uptick in the MaltaToday trust barometer since becoming leader of the Nationalist Party in September last year.

With a trust rating of 15.4%, Delia still trails Prime Minister Joseph Muscat by a massive 26 points but it appears the Opposition leader has started to reverse the downward trend. Delia’s rating has bounced up eight points over the December trust barometer, which entered single-digit territory.

But it would be a mistake for the PN leader to rest on his laurels because the current trust rating is still seven points below his highest result yet – 22.1% at the start of his leadership.

It remains unclear whether this is the start of an internal healing process after last year’s bruising leadership race but PN voters remain Delia’s biggest headache. Only 33.8% of those who voted PN in the last election trust their leader, a drop of five points from the November survey (the December figure is unavailable because the survey only polled people on trust and not their voting intentions).

A quarter of 2017 PN voters trust neither Delia nor Muscat, which is significantly down from the 54.5% registered last November. More Nationalists (34%) are now unsure who to trust, while 8% trust Muscat over Delia.

It is a rosier picture for Muscat among those who voted for the Labour Party in the last election, although the Prime Minister has seen his trust level dented. Muscat retains the trust of 72% of 2017 PL voters, a significant drop from the 98% trust retention level last November when he enjoyed an extraordinary performance in the wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

More Labourites (20%) are now uncertain who to trust. Only 3% of PL voters trust Delia while 5% trust none of the two leaders.

The survey was conducted between 23 and 29 January and polled 501 respondents. For the first time a multiple imputation system was used to reduce the number of non-answers.

The results show that Muscat’s overall trust rating has taken a hit since the December trust barometer. The Prime Minister’s trust rating now stands at 41%, a decrease of nine percentage points.

The drop in trust is comparable to the loss in support the PL has suffered over the past month. Even though the Prime Minister is still far ahead of his rival, a damning rule of law report on Malta released by the European Parliament and the fresh twists in the hospitals privatisation saga may have hurt Muscat’s trust rating.

For the first time in many years, Muscat’s trust rating has dropped below his party’s strength, albeit by a single percentage point.

15.2% trust none of the leaders while 28.3% are undecided.

Regional breakdown

Muscat is trusted more than Delia across all regions, with the closest gap between the two being in the Northern Harbour region where the Prime Minister is still 15 points ahead. This region comprises most of the localities that make up the electoral districts 8, 9 and 10, which are traditionally PN-leaning. The Northern Harbour is home to Muscat’s lowest trust rating at 35.8% and Delia’s highest at 21.3%.

Muscat’s highest trust rating is registered in the South Eastern region (53.4%) that includes Zejtun, Birzebbuga, Zurrieq, Marsaskala and the airport villages, where the PL enjoys strong support.

However, his trust rating drops to 37.9% in the Southern Harbour district that includes the Three Cities, Zabbar and Fgura, which are traditionally deep red territory. On the flipside, Muscat registers significant ratings in Gozo (43.7%) and the Northern region (45.5%).

This could be indicative of discontent among the PL’s grassroots over the government’s direction, which, however, has enabled Muscat to gain traction in regions traditionally warier of the PL.

Delia appears to have gained traction in the Southern Harbour region where he registers the second-highest trust rating at 19.6%. But this drops to a measly 6.4% in the South Eastern region.

Gozo remains a hard nut to crack for Delia. The PN leader only manages a trust rating of 9.2%.

Methodological note

The survey was conducted between 23 and 29 January. A total of 501 respondents participated in the survey. Respondents were chosen using stratified random sampling based on age, region and gender.  Moreover, multiple imputation by chained equations for missing data or non-answers by respondents was invoked. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2% for a confidence interval of 95%.

Voting intentions

The Labour Party has shed almost eight points since November but it still enjoys a comfortable lead over the Nationalist Party, according to a MaltaToday survey.

Carried out in the last week of January, the survey came on the back of the controversy surrounding the sale of the hospitals concession by Vitals to an American healthcare company.

When asked how they would vote if an election were to be held tomorrow, 42% said they would vote PL and 28.9% PN. Support for Alternattiva Demokratika stood at 1.2%. The survey did not register support for the Democratic Party.

Those who said they would not vote stood at 10.3%, while 17.4% were uncertain of their voting intention.

If an electoral result is extrapolated from the survey findings by taking into consideration only those who expressed a voting intention, the gap between the two major parties works out at around 63,000 votes.

Dissecting the share of those who say they will not vote reveals that 33% of this segment voted PN in the 2017 election, whereas 40% voted PL. The rest did not vote last June.

A breakdown of those who are uncertain of their current voting intention reveals a totally different picture. The vast majority (58.5%) of this segment voted PN in 2017 and 27.5% voted PL. The rest did not turn up to vote.

This indicates that PL 2017 voters seem to be more assertive with their discontent whereas PN 2017 voters seem to be more uncertain.

Regional breakdown

The PL enjoys a majority across all the territory, registering its highest result in the South Eastern region where it enjoys the support of 59.3%.

The closest gap between the parties is in the Northern Harbour region, where the PL registers its lowest result at 35.1%. The difference sees the PL a mere three points ahead of the PN but interestingly, this gap is much smaller than the gap in the trust rating of the respective leaders.

This is indicative of Delia’s problem to convince Nationalist voters to trust him. It appears that voters in this region will vote PN but have no trust in their own leader.

The results for the Southern Harbour region show the PN making inroads and cutting the gap to five points.

In Gozo, the PL registers 43.5% of support as opposed to the PN’s 20.5%. However, Gozo also registers the highest number of people who do not know how they will vote at 24.7%.

Alternattiva Demokratika’s support is confined to the Northern region and the Northern Harbour area.