‘Joining the EU was a good decision’

51% of Labour voters say EU accession was a good decision, but one in every four PL voters say they want the country to quit the EU

Alfred Sant in 2002 - Partnership, or opposition of EU membership, still has its supporters
Alfred Sant in 2002 - Partnership, or opposition of EU membership, still has its supporters

The absolute majority (51%) of Labour voters in the last election think that the decision to join the European Union was a good one, a MaltaToday survey shows.

But a residue of euro-scepticism survives in the party that once opposed EU accession under Alfred Sant’s proposal to enter into a ‘partnership’ association agreement with the union: 30% say that EU membership was a bad decision and 23% actually advocate withdrawal from the EU.

The survey was held among 400 respondents contacted between Monday and Wednesday.

Overall, more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) think EU membership “was a good decision” while nearly three in four (73%) would vote to keep Malta in the EU if a referendum on this issue is held. 

A comparison with a survey held five years ago by MaltaToday shows a sharp 17-point drop in the percentage of respondents who would vote against membership in a hypothetical referendum. Moreover, the survey shows a 43-point drop in the percentage of Labour voters who support withdrawal from the EU.

Malta was the most polarised among the 10 new member states which joined the EU in 2004. But 10 years later Malta, seems untouched by the wave of euroscepticism hitting many other EU countries which have seen the rise of Eurosceptic and anti-EU far right parties.

The result represents a dramatic change of heart among the voters of a party, which fought tooth and nail against EU membership in the 2003 referendum and subsequent general election. The party only accepted the reality of EU membership after being soundly defeated at the polls.

Still, despite the party’s change of heart on EU membership, a solid minority of 30% of Labour voters in the 2013 general election still think that EU membership was a bad decision.

Moreover, although 61% of Labour voters want Malta to remain in the European Union, given the chance 23% would vote to get the country out of the European Union if given the chance to do so in a referendum. 

Additionally, 17% of Labour voters are undecided on whether Malta should remain in the EU while 20% are undecided on whether joining the EU was the right decision. 

The survey suggests that despite the party’s present platitudes on European values and making Malta “the best in the European Union”, it still has to contend with a reserve of euro-scepticism in its grassroots and a sizeable section of the Labour vote remains lukewarm towards EU membership.

On the other hand, the vast majority of former Nationalist voters who voted for the PL in 2013 think that EU membership was a good thing for Malta, and that Malta should remain in the EU.

Nationalist voters in 2013 are also unanimous in their support for membership and none favour the withdrawal of Malta from the EU.

Interestingly, the survey shows that only 13% of those who favour the withdrawal of Malta from the EU, would not vote in next May’s MEP elections but nearly 30% are undecided or would not reveal their voting intentions. 

The fact that only 57% of these voters are sure of voting Labour in MEP elections, suggests a degree of discomfort with the party’s present stance of the EU. 

Unsurprisingly, former Labour leader Alfred Sant, who campaigned against membership, emerges as the favourite candidate of this category of voters.