Mere hours are left in the MEP campaign and we’ll soon find out who our representatives will be and which political party will win most seats. The public’s only unit of measurement to gauge the political landscape was published on Sunday by no fewer than three different newspapers, and the surveys combined give us a clear insight on what we can expect this weekend.
First of all, the Times of Malta returned a PL-PN first preference vote share of 55% to 40%. This is very similar to the 2014 MEP election, with the PN retaining the same percentage of votes but relatively lower to Labour, which appears to enjoy a slight increase.
This is by far the PN’s most optimistic polling results in this electoral campaign, and more optimistic than the other surveys published on Sunday.
Both the MaltaToday poll and It-Torċa poll, conducted by Vincent Marmara, agreed on the most part. It-Torċa placed it at 56.9% (PL) and 37.3% (PN), while MaltaToday’s surveys indicate that 41.3% intend to vote for PL, 27.9% intend to vote for PN and 18.6% are still undecided.
While polling data is just a statistic, and therefore an estimate, such surveys can be incredibly useful to analyse the political scene and inform campaigns.
Surveys increase in accuracy depending on how many people were interviewed. The more the merrier, and the more accurate and representative of the population, but also the more expensive.
Throughout an election campaign, it might be a better idea to have regular, small survey than one very expensive one. This is certainly true locally, with survey sizes ranging from only 400 to 850 people.
Since 2004, turnout for the EP elections has been slowly but fairly readily declining, by around 4% each election. There seems to be no reason to believe that this trend will not be followed, so based purely on historical data, we can expect voter turnout to be at around 70%-71%.
The actual turnout might be lower given the rifts between parties which might discourage some people to vote. Furthermore, the relatively low turnout for elderly voters might have given us a hint, edging the turnout slightly lower still.
Voter turnout is important as it reveals various information which could be extrapolated from the results. It raises questions like: Why are/aren’t people voting more? Which voters are more/less motivated? Why and how are people becoming disenfranchised? A low turnout might affect one political party worse than the other, meaning party strategists would do well to look out for it.
The results so far seem to be projecting a pretty healthy 4:2 in terms of seats won at the European Parliament, with the PN losing one of its three seats to the PL
However, this has two caveats. Firstly, the polls are generally based on first preference votes, meaning the ever-important transfer votes are largely disregarded.
Secondly, for a party to elect MEPs through the quota system, votes must be inherited by candidates in the same party or they’ll be lost.
This is not the reality of the single transferable vote, as a first preference vote given to a failed candidate might not necessarily remain within the same party.
The Times noted that PN voters by-and-large recognised three major candidates when asked to say who their second preference would be. On the other hand, Labour Party voters mentioned two. This could mean that the front-running Labour candidates are individually stronger than their PN counterparts, but it could also have an impact on how votes are transferred.
Lastly, as Norman Lowell rises just under 2% in the polls, there are worries of the introduction of the far-right. While it is true Malta has problems addressing racism and xenophobia, it is doubtful that Lowell will come anywhere near winning a seat in the European Parliament.
Traditionally, third parties have been used as protest votes against the major parties, and have never reached more than a few thousand votes combined. There is no reason to expect the trend to change this weekend.