What will the undecided do? Four variables influence Sunday’s electoral result

MaltaToday’s rolling survey has consistently given Labour a sure victory but the undecided may yet determine how big the gap will be

The extrapolation in MaltaToday’s electoral surveys are based on the assumption that on election day, the 20% of respondents who say that they are still undecided will vote in the same way they did in 2017.

Based on this methodological assumption surveys have consistently shown Labour winning by anything between 23,000 and 30,000 votes.

But the margin could change if a significant number of undecided voters do not follow this pattern, and even more so if 2017 PN and PL voters follow different trajectories. So, what could change?

A silent shift to Labour: more undecided respondents say they trust Abela

Undecided voters could be in transit from one party to the other, but are not willing to declare their intention in a survey.

One possibility is that Labour could end up benefitting from a third wave of switchers from the PN’s vote cohort. There is a possibility that former PN voters who now trust Robert Abela more than Bernard Grech may end up voting Labour, despite saying that they are still undecided.

One indication that this could be the case is that while 5.8% of PN voters in 2017 today say they prefer Abela to Grech, only 3.7% of PN voters in 2017 say they will vote Labour.

In contrast, while 3.7% of PL voters say they will vote PN, 4.1% trust Grech. This suggests that Labour has slightly more space to grow than the PN.

Moreover, among undecided voters Abela is trusted by 24.6% and Grech by 11.9% which may well be an indication that the undecided tilt towards Labour.

A silent shift to the PN

Another possibility is that a larger segment of Labour voters who presently say they are undecided, may actually be in transit towards the PN, but for whatever reason are not keen on declaring so in a survey.

The survey shows that most undecided voters refused to choose between Abela and Grech. This included 46.6% of presently undecided voters who trust neither leader, and 16.9% of all voters who were also undecided on which leader to trust.

It is possible that this segment includes disgruntled Labour voters who are secretive about their voting intentions. But this could also be the case with former PN voters who are in transit.

A silent shift to abstention

The fact that nearly half of undecided voters distrust both major party leaders may be an indication that either these may end up joining the ranks of the abstainers. The survey already shows that 8% will not be voting.

But this number could be higher if undecided voters who trust neither leader join their ranks. It is also possible that a segment of genuinely undecided voters who feel a civic duty to vote may end up turning up at the polling booth to vote for a third party or for an individual candidate that they like, without any consideration for partisan allegiance.  

Labour’s advantage among new voters

Among new voters, 40.3% are undecided. This is the highest rate of indecision among all categories included in the survey. But less then 6% of new voters say they won’t be voting.

And while only 22.3% of new voters say that they will be voting Labour, just one point more than the PN, 33.6% of new voters trust Abela in contrast to 21.6% who prefer Grech.

This suggests that Labour has far more room to grow in this category than the PN. If all new voters who prefer Abela to Grech also vote Labour, the gap could be higher than the one predicted in the survey extrapolation.