Opposition leader Adrian Delia has made up some significant ground in the polls, with MaltaToday’s latest survey showing his trust rating is at its highest yet and has surpassed the nadir in the polls reached by his predecessor Simon Busuttil.
Delia registered a trust rating of 27.2%, a seven-point increase since the newspaper’s last survey in March but still a long way behind Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s trust rating of 48.6%.
In fact, Labour still enjoys an extremely comfortable lead over the PN in the polls. Asked who they intend to vote for at the next election, 45.8% of respondents said they will vote PL while 32.1% said they will vote PN. The gap has been reduced by around ten points since the last survey in March, but still points towards a historic election victory for Labour by some 50,000 votes.
Yet Delia certainly has reason to take some comfort in today’s survey results. Despite the ongoing internal turmoil within his party, he has managed to surpass Simon Busuttil’s lowest trust rating during his time as PN leader – which hovered between 26% and 27% between March and June 2015. However, back then the gap between Busuttil and Muscat stood at 12.6%, whereas the gap between Delia and the Prime Minister currently stands at around 21%.
He now needs another ten points to surpass Busuttil’s trust zenith, which was registered at 36.3% on the eve of last year’s election.
Perhaps it was these numbers Delia was referring to when he aimed a clear dig at Busuttil’s style of leadership during his speech at the PN General Council today.
“The PN will no longer remain the party of elites and lawyers, but will become the voice of all Maltese people at all levels of society,” he said, in response to a pre-recorded question from a fisherman. “We have an obligation as politicians to represent the workers who have sustained us, and we must get out of our stuffy rooms at Dar Ċentrali and meet up with everyone so as to understand exactly what they’re going through. We cannot close our doors to anyone.”
With the MEP and local council elections scheduled for a year’s time, any optimism within the PN at must be cautious at this stage. MaltaToday’s survey clearly shows that Delia has managed to gain the trust of PN voters, who were perhaps left disillusioned after last year’s bruising leadership election. 61.8% of people who voted PN in 2017 now say they trust Delia more than they trust Muscat, a huge leap from March when only 48.3% of PN voters said they trust the new leader. This could be interpreted in many different ways. PN voters might be reacting positively to Delia’s rigorous approach of meeting people within their communities, or they could be warming up to his moralistic arguments on IVF, immigration and drugs, or there could be growing alarm at the Labour government in the wake of the Daphne Project.
Adrian Delia pledge to move the PN away from ‘elitism’ today
While 26.7% of PN voters still say they trust neither Delia nor Muscat, these ‘orphaned’ voters do not seem ready to switch their allegiance to a third party. Support for Alternativva Demokratika, Partit Demokratiku and Moviment Patrijotti Maltin was negligible, particularly amongst PN voters.
Delia can take comfort in the ineffectiveness of third parties, as it means the undecided PN voters will be more likely to vote for PN when the fervour of an election campaign hits next year.
Worryingly for Delia though, he has not started making inroads amongst Labour voters, where a whopping 92% said they trust the Prime Minister more than the Opposition leader.
With the vast majority of PN voters now on his side, this is where the real test begins for Adrian Delia as there are only ways he can continue advancing in the polls now. First, he must convince the 26.7% of PN voters who still cannot choose between him and Muscat almost a year after he was elected leader. This will be no easy task, as this cohort of voters certainly includes supporters of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had gone all-out against Delia before her assassination last October. Secondly, he must start convincing Labour voters that he is a better option than Joseph Muscat – a tough ask, seeing as the Prime Minister enjoys godlike status amongst several of his supports and as there are no clearly visible cracks within the Labour Party.