NEWS | Sunday, 30 September 2007

PN closes the gap

James Debono

A survey conducted by MaltaToday in the aftermath of last Thursday mass party activities which inaugurated the electoral campaign the two big parties are practically neck to neck with the PN enjoying a slight 0.4% advantage over the MLP.
The survey follows a poor performance by Opposition Leader Alfred Sant when addressing a crowd in Birzebbugia which sharply contrasted with an upbeat speech by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi at the Granaries on the same night.
In what is turning out to be a Presidential-style election, respondents were asked who they would prefer as their Prime Minister after the next election. The respondents expressed a clear preference for Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
While 34 per cent preferred Gonzi, only 22 per cent preferred Alfred Sant. But a substantial 44 per cent still cannot choose between the two party leaders.
In June, Sant was the preferred choice of 32.7 per cent of respondents while Gonzi was chosen by 36 per cent. While Gonzi remains more popular than his own party, Alfred Sant emerges from the survey as less popular than his own party.
Significantly Gonzi enjoys greater appeal among undeclared voters.
While Gonzi is the preferred choice of 20 per cent of undecided voters and those who would not vote in a forthcoming election, Sant only enjoys the support of seven per cent among this category of voters.
Respondents now consider the prospect of a PN victory as more likely than they did just three months ago – an indication that the party’s campaign is back on track.
Back in June, only 17 per cent believed that the PN could win the next election. Three months later, that proportion has grown to 24.6 per cent. On the other hand those believing in a Labour victory have declined from 33.7 per cent in June to 25 per cent this week.
But despite Gonzi’s popularity, the governing party failed to gain any additional support in the past three weeks and the very slight advantage it enjoys derives from a five per cent drop in Labour support. One should also note that the PN’s advantage falls within the survey’s margin of error.

Drop in support could be linked to Sant’s performance

The MLP had been leading the PN in every survey conducted by MaltaToday since December last year. On that occasion, the MLP experienced a similar drop in support following an internal feud within the party in the wake of Alfred Sant’s revelation that a “snake” had leaked internal information to the PN.

The two parties have not been so close to each other since February when the PN trailed Labour by 1.5 per cent. But ever since May the MLP has led the PN by a margin of more than five per cent.
With the two main parties neck and neck, Alternattiva Demokratika retains a pivotal two per cent support, which denies both parties an absolute majority in what appears to be a closely contested election. With the environment emerging as one of the top five concerns of the electorate, the green vote could have a crucial role in determining the election outcome.
Yet despite the PN’s apparent recovery in the past two surveys, the cost of living remains the top concern of the Maltese. As the party which constantly harps on this issue, the Labour Party has an advantage over the PN. Any further increase in the cost of living following the introduction of the euro could be explosive for the PN. For the first time, immigration emerges as the second top concern of respondents, but this concern is not yet translated into support for Azzjoni Nazzjonali.
In the wake of a summer dominated by corruption cases hitting different authorities and ministries, corruption has also emerged among the top five issues.
While one would expect the PN to emphasise the next election as a clash of personalities, fully knowing that Sant is Labour’s weak point, the MLP will try to fully capitalise on the concerns of the people.
Not surprisingly, the MLP is hammering on the most popular concerns expressed in surveys.

Methodological note
571 respondents were randomly chosen from the telephone directory between Monday 24 and Friday 28 September. A total of 300 respondents accepted to be interviewed. The survey has a margin of error of +/-5.7%.

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