Chris Fearne’s lead eroded by resurgent Abela, MaltaToday survey finds

PL leadership race: raw numbers give Fearne 17.5% and Abela 14.1%, pointing to a race that can go from a tight contest to an easy victory for Fearne

Labour leadership hopefuls Chris Fearne and Robert Abela
Labour leadership hopefuls Chris Fearne and Robert Abela

Chris Fearne still leads his rival Robert Abela as the Labour leadership race enters its final week but the distance has narrowed, a MaltaToday survey found.

The survey was held among Labour Party members and puts Fearne’s support at 55.4% against Abela’s 44.6% when the results are extrapolated on those who declared their voting intention.

However, the results are conditioned by the large percentage of respondents who did not declare their preferred choice for prime minister. Almost six in 10 of respondents (58.9%) were uncertain who they will vote for, while another 9.5% said they will vote for none.

The raw numbers give Fearne 17.5% and Abela 14.1%, pointing to a race that can go from a tight contest to an easy victory for Fearne when the margin of error is taken into account.

An internal membership survey leaked to The Sunday Times of Malta last week put Fearne’s support at around 65%.

The MaltaToday survey suggests that Abela has gained ground in recent days as he continued with his grass roots campaign.

According to MaltaToday’s poll, Abela is more popular among those aged 18-35, obtaining 28.6% of support against Fearne’s 12.6%. Support is evenly split among those aged between 36 and 50 – Abela receives the support of 15.1% against Fearne’s 14.3%.

But the deputy prime minister steams ahead in the higher age groups, which are more characteristic of the party’s membership base.

Among those aged between 51 and 65, Fearne obtained 20.2% against Abela’s 12.8% and among those aged 65 and over, Fearne obtained 17.4% against Abela’s 12.4%.

Fearne is more popular than Abela among both men and women.

The numbers give Fearne an advantage over Abela as the race enters its final week, however the numbers have to be read with caution because of several limitations with the polling.


PL members still trust Muscat

The survey also asked PL members how much they trusted outgoing leader Joseph Muscat on a scale of one to 10. The results were grouped into three broad categories (Low, Medium, High).

Muscat scored 84.3% in the high category (scores between 8 and 10), showing that he still enjoys overwhelming support among the party faithful.

However, while Muscat scores high across most age groups, this is less pronounced among party members aged between 18 and 35.

In this age group, Muscat scores 48.6% in the high category and 44.1% in the medium. In all other age groups the high category superseded 60%, growing to more than 90% in the older age groups.

The lowest level of trust is found among those aged between 36 and 50, where 26% gave the Prime Minister a lowly score of between one and three.

How is this survey different?

There is a marked difference between this survey and others normally held by MaltaToday. While ordinary surveys of the whole population are benchmarked against characteristics such as sex and age obtained from the National Statistics Office, the PL membership survey is conditioned by the fact that this newspaper did not have access to similar data.

MaltaToday was leaked an anonymised list of members’ phone numbers according to locality with no information on age and sex, making it impossible to weight the results according to the make-up of the membership base.

The only weighting possible was according to geographic distribution, ensuring that the sample accurately reflected the distribution of the party members by locality.

The survey was carried out between 2 January and 3 January and 461 respondents opted to complete it. Stratified random sampling based on locality was used to replicate the PL membership geographical distribution. The estimated margin of error is 6.2% for a confidence interval of 95%.

Demographic and sub-group breakdowns have a larger margin of error.