Behind the Sunday Times' divorce poll, the OPM's tacit approval

As The Times celebrates 75 years of journalism, its credentials are dented by a survey on divorce that raises serious questions of credibility.

A Sunday Times survey claiming just 40% of respondents would vote in favour of divorce in a referendum, has been overshadowed by claims that the poll was ‘manufactured’ by tacit approval of the Office of the Prime Minister.

MaltaToday is reliably informed that in supplying pollsters Misco with questions they had to ask respondents, the Sunday Times was propping up Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s position to hold a referendum on divorce.

This was done by working closely with a top OPM official, whereupon the Sunday Times then provided Misco with questions to ask their respondents.

Well-placed sources who spoke to MaltaToday said the polling company felt uncomfortable that its findings were used to “downplay the positions held by Joseph Muscat and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando” in the newspaper.

Misco were directed to ask respondents how they would vote for in a referendum, even though reservations were expressed that the question was flawed: because referenda propose concrete laws for voters to decide whether they should pass or not.

“The problem is simple: people vote in referenda once they know what they are voting for, that is, a piece of legislation… a proper divorce bill,” said MaltaToday journalist James Debono, who has carried out three surveys charting the gradual increase of people in favour of divorce over the past five years.

“In polling people on whether they would ‘vote in favour of divorce in a referendum’, the Sunday Times survey is asking people how they would vote in a referendum with no specific proposition.

“A politically honest question would be to ask them to vote on divorce once government hammers out the legal structure on matters such as children’s custody in divorce settlements, alimony payments, etc,” Debono said.

A fundamental difference in the STOM and MaltaToday surveys is the lead question asked. The Sunday Times asked people how they would vote in a referendum and registered 40% who ‘would vote in favour of divorce’; MaltaToday asked people if they agreed with ‘divorce for couples who have been separated for four years’, and registered 59% in favour – specifically 41% who said ‘yes’ and another 18% who replied they favour divorce “in certain circumstances.”

In fact the proposed bill by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando recommends that divorce is only granted to people who have been living apart from their partner for at least four of the previous five years – allaying fears of instant ‘Las Vegas-style’ divorce.

“There will always be people who qualify their ‘yes’… we don’t know where these answers featured in the STOM survey,” Debono said. “All surveys conducted so far by MaltaToday and other pollsters have shown that a significant percentage favour divorce only in certain circumstances. It is not clear whether these were lumped with the ‘don't knows’ in the STOM survey.”

But in other respects, the two scientific surveys converge.

For example the STOM polled 55% of respondents who said they are in favour of the decision on divorce to be settled by referendum; MaltaToday found 58% in favour. Those who want the decision taken through a general election were 8.5% (MaltaToday) and 10.6% (STOM) – but those who want MPs to vote are 12.3% (MaltaToday) and 20.2% (STOM), however MaltaToday was also told by 14.5% that no decision was necessary at all – divorce should just not be introduced.

Charles Caruana
Is it official now that the Times of Malta has become the mouthpiece of GonziPN?
Alfred Galea
Squall, the PN doesn't do anything to offend the Curia/RCC in any way. So it wouldn't surprise me if they seek advice or receive unsilicited advice from the Curia. It's been like that at least since I was born, a long time ago. Of course the Curia/RCC should not be involved....but they are/will be.
doris cassar
as can be seen by the comments below-the 'collaboration' between the TOM and OPM came as no surprise. Many have assumed it has been happening for decades.
Joe South why must the CURIA be involved the priests and the archbishop have nothing to do with this problem the archbishop MUST have opened his MOUTH when UE wanted to take OFF the CROSSES from the classes their should the CURIA be involved but not about DIVORCE
Alfred Galea
[Behind the Sunday Times' divorce poll, the OPM's tacit approval].....what is surprising is that the Curia wasn't involved too.
For human rights, Why you want to make a referendum? why not using your political tools? you have the ooposition leader who is in favour allready supporting it, and some of your party members. Mr.Prime minister in the end you know sooner or later it will be -Honourable Prime minister, apart from our heart and beliefs when we are in the politics you know that religion must have nothing to do with politics. all EU countries have divorce- and we are simply talking about divorce- remember there are other human rights too that are still very far from being introduced- but let's concentrate on divorce-if you put refrendum than i think people will say" to see what people wants why? for votes ? MLP said that they want divorce to be discussed in the parlament with jeffrey pullicino orlando -so the majority of people knows who wants divorce- I think you tought about that right? I think you understand.. to be continued
No one has the right to talk about divorce or decide except those who are invoilved because of problems in their marriage it's not fair that someone decides for these people because they ONlY KNOWS from what thay are going through what about a man who goes from work to work and his wife spoils all his earnings and what about a woman who his beaten by her husband has they no RIGHT to end their marriage
Some politicians are the masters of spin, others have no clue!