MaltaToday Survey | Nationalists warm up to Adrian Delia

In the last trust barometer of the year, Joseph Muscat enjoys a 27-point lead over Adrian Delia but prospects are looking slightly better for the PN leader. 

PN leader Adrian Delia
PN leader Adrian Delia

Adrian Delia’s trust level has bounced back to 24.7% in December as the strategy to embrace the Simon Busuttil faction appears to have paid off.

It is still not time for jubilation because the Nationalist Party leader trails the Prime Minister by almost 27 points but the upward movement should come as a relief after a dismal four months.

Delia’s trust rating increased by almost seven points in December, the MaltaToday survey found, when compared to the November result.

The survey captured the aftermath of the fresh information on the ownership of the Dubai company 17 Black, which saw Delia take a strong stand. The PN leader also used the occasion to reach out to his predecessor and those who form part of his faction within the party.

The rapprochement, embodied in Delia’s warm handshake with Busuttil during the PN general council, appears to have left an impact on Nationalist voters, who have consistently shunned the PN leader.

The survey found that Delia enjoyed the trust of 60.8% of those who voted PN in the last election, an uptick of 16 points over the November result. At the same time, the percentage of 2017 PN voters who trusted no one, dropped to 32.8% from 40.7% in November.

The numbers will come as good news for PN strategists after the decision in August to try and kick Busuttil out of the party following the Egrant inquiry findings. That decision backfired and Delia had to climb down.

In August, Delia’s trust rating crashed to 14.8% and only recovered to an average of 18% in the subsequent three months as the PN was riven by internal division.

Even so, Delia’s latest trust rating is not his highest in 12 months and the Opposition leader still trails Joseph Muscat by a mile.

The Prime Minister’s trust rating stood at 51.3%, a drop of three points on the November survey, which saw Muscat hit his highest ever result at 54.5%.

The drop can hardly be attributable to the fallout from the 17 Black revelations for two reasons: Muscat’s November result was in itself extraordinarily high coming on the back of the Budget and very unlikely to be maintained over a stretch of time; the Labour Party marginally increased its poll ratings in December, emerging unscathed by the revelations.

The survey was conducted between 6 and 14 December.

It appears the 17 Black revelations had little or no impact on the population at large but helped Delia consolidate his own voter base.

Muscat slips in Northern region

Muscat’s trust rating outstripped Delia’s in all age groups, among both men and women, and in all regions bar one.

In the Northern region that includes St Paul’s Bay, Mellieha and Mosta, Delia managed to come ahead of Muscat by a hairline. In this region, Delia obtained a trust rating of 45%, while Muscat scored 44.3%.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

In Gozo, the Prime Minister’s trust rating stood at 44.3% as opposed to Delia’s 23%. Muscat also beat Delia in the Northern Harbour region (40.5% vs 26%).

But the Prime Minister remained extremely strong in both southern regions and the west.

Muscat’s highest trust rating was in the South Eastern region where he scored 74% against Delia’s dismal showing of 6.2%. In the Southern Harbour region, Muscat enjoyed a trust rating of 60.3% against Delia’s 23.7%, while in the Western region, Muscat also enjoyed an absolute majority of 57.6% against the PN leader’s 22%.

Labour consolidates as PN moves up

The Labour Party has maintained its strong support, ending the year 19 points ahead of the Nationalist Party, the MaltaToday survey has found.

The December survey saw support for the PL climb by less than a percentage point to 48.3% as the party consolidated its standing among the electorate.

But the survey also spelt good news for the Nationalist Party that climbed out of its worst performance last month, jumping up almost nine points to reach 29%.

The upward movement in support for the PN parallels the increase in Adrian Delia’s trust rating.

The PN’s result is similar to that obtained in October but less than the party’s best performance in May when it scored 32.1%.

The December survey showed no sign of reprieve for the smaller parties. Alternattiva Demokratika polled 0.7% and the Democratic Party polled 0.9%.

Both parties have consistently polled less than one per cent each in 2018, bar a few exceptions. It appears they have failed to capture the electorate’s imagination, even though PD has two very active MPs.

The survey showed that 2.7% of PN voters in 2017 would shift to the PL if an election were held tomorrow, while only 0.3% of PL 2017 voters would vote PN.

The biggest handicap for the PN are voters who supported it in the last election but who remain unmoved by the party’s direction under Delia, although there has been improvement.

While in November 21.7% of PN 2017 voters said, they would abstain from voting, the latest survey showed that that 15.1% of Nationalist voters would not vote if an election is held tomorrow.

This improvement in numbers is a reflection of the higher trust rating Delia obtained among his own voters.

But the PL remains more popular than the PN across all age groups, among men and women, and all regions bar one.

Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson
Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson

The results broadly reflect the trust ratings of the respective leaders.

The PL scored strong results among those aged 18-35 (56.7%) and the elderly (52%). In both categories, the PN polled 20.1% and 40.5% respectively.

On a regional basis, the PL was just ahead of the PN in Gozo (41.1% vs 39.1%). The PL trailed the PN in the Northern region (38.9% vs 45%) but ran riot over its rival in the southern and western regions.

Voters were still in love with Joseph in 2018

A year-and-a-half into his second term Joseph Muscat has retained the strong trust of voters. 

Joseph Muscat scored an average trust rating of 51.2% over the course of 2018, as voters maintained their trust in the Prime Minister.

With 18 months into his second term coming to a close, Muscat remains the Labour Party’s biggest asset.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Adrian Delia’s trust rating stood at an average of 20.1%.

There were nine MaltaToday surveys in which trust in the two leaders was measured throughout 2018 (no trust survey was conducted in January, April and July).

The Prime Minister’s trust rating ranged from a low of 41% in February to a high of 54.5% in November. Since June, Muscat’s trust rating has consistently been above the 50% mark.

The Opposition leader’s trust oscillated between a low of 14.8% in August and a high of 27.2% in May, as Delia struggled with internal dissent.

The gap between both leaders was its closest in May when Muscat was 21 points ahead of his political rival.

Muscat was consistently more popular than his party. In each survey, bar February, Muscat’s trust rating was higher than the result of voting intentions obtained by the Labour Party.

This gives the PL space in which to grow on the strength of its leader’s popularity.

Delia’s experience was completely opposite. In every survey held in 2018, the PN leader’s trust rating was lower than the result obtained by his party.

This is similar to the trend of his predecessor Simon Busuttil, who was consistently less popular than his party.

Methodology

The survey was carried out between Thursday 6 December and Friday 14 December. 597 respondents opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on gender, region and age was used to replicate the Maltese demographics. The estimated margin of error is 4.2% for a confidence interval of 95%.

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