Whenever a political survey is published, you can be sure that both main parties will claim some sort of victory, no matter what the numbers say.
Take yesterday’s MaltaToday survey – Prime Minister Robert Abela reacted by saying the people trust the government to keep its word while Opposition leader Bernard Grech hailed the figures as evidence the PN is on an upwards curve.
How have the numbers, evidenced through surveys published by various media houses, actually changed over the past four years though?
Lovin Malta has cross-compiled all the surveys published by media houses since the 2017 election, namely those carried out by MaltaToday, Sagalytics for It-Torċa, Esprimi for Times of Malta and Lovin Malta, and Misco for Newsbook.
At the 2017 general election, the Labour Party triumphed over the PN by a whopping 35,000 votes, with an 11.3 percentage point gap between the two parties.
The PN’s popularity plunged in the wake of the general election and the subsequent election of Adrian Delia as Opposition leader, with the first post-election survey (MaltaToday, October 2017) estimating a 24.5 point gap between the parties.
The gap dipped further before returning to a post-election low of 13.1 points and then 12.4 points.
However, things took a drastic change for the worse for PN following the conclusion of the Egrant inquiry and Delia’s attempt to remove his predecessor Simon Busuttil from the party, a political move which was met with fierce internal resistance.
The first three surveys published in the wake of that PN fiasco found the gap had widened to an average 26.1 points, before stabilising to an average of 18.2 points in the months prior to the political crisis at the end of 2019.
No surveys were published during the crisis, and after Robert Abela replaced Joseph Muscat as Prime Minister, the gap increased to 25.4 points before plummeting back down to 13.1 points.
The government’s popularity wasn’t damaged whatsoever as a result of the first wave of COVID-19, with the vote gap reaching an average of 24.2 in the months between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and Bernard Grech’s election as PN leader seven months later.
Grech’s impact was obvious, with the gap between the parties immediately dropping to ten points in the first survey since his election, the first time a survey estimated the gap to be less than the one obtained in the 2017 election.
The gap kept hovering around the same point in the following months, dropping to a low of 6.6 points in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19 in March this year and rising to a high of 15.1 points in July.
In total, seven out of 15 surveys under Grech’s watch have indicated a gap smaller than that registered in the 2017 election, compared to zero out of 34 when Delia was in charge.
However, this positive development for the PN is tempered by the fact that the trust rating gap between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader remains extremely large.
The trust rating gap stood at an average of 31.9 points when Muscat was in charge of the PL and Delia in charge of the PN, reaching a high of 43.2 points (MaltaToday, December 2017) and a low of 21.4 points (MaltaToday, May 2018).
It then shot up to an average of 41.3 points over the eight surveys when Abela was up against Delia and declined to an average of 17.2 points when the race turned into Abela versus Grech.
The numbers have clearly improved for the PN under Grech’s watch, hardly surprising considering the troubles that had plagued the party back then, culminating in a public attempt by the majority of PN MPs to oust Delia as leader and Grech eventually defeating the incumbent at an internal election.
However, the blatant fact is that the PL still enjoys a significant lead, despite the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a political crisis, a change in leader, a pandemic and subsequent economic crisis, and the country’s greylisting by the FATF.
And after surviving this perfect storm intact, it’s clear that the PL will head into the next general election in full confidence, leaving the PN with a lot of work to do to make up some ground it has lost over the years.
Who do you intend to vote for at the next election?