Economic feel-good factor translates into lack of concerns
When asked what issue is presently of greatest concern, ‘nothing, there are no concerns’ was given the highest proportion of mentions, the November edition of the iSurvey commissioned by The Malta Independent shows.
Respondents were asked: What issue is of greatest concern to you right now? No answers were provided to respondents, instead they had to come up with an issue, if any, that was of greatest concern to them presently. In other words, respondents were not prompted in any way.
Interestingly, the top mention was that of ‘nothing, there are no concerns’, at 20.9%. It could be that the current local positive economic climate has led to a feelgood factor, leading people to answer that way when asked of their issues of greatest concern. Unemployment is at an all-time low and the economy is growing at the fastest pace compared to the other EU member states. Economic stability and fewer people dependent on the state are sure to contribute to people failing to come up with an issue when asked.
Next in line was traffic at 15.4%, don’t know at 10.5%, Corruption at 10.3%, Immigration (illegal)/migrants taking our work 5.4%, Cost of living 5.2%, Environment issues (high-rise/many buildings/ pollution) 4%, Terrorism/ security 3%, Low salaries/ minimum wage 2%, New power station/ LNG tanker 1.8%, Public transport 1.6%, Lack of jobs/poor/uncertain working conditions 1.5%, Lack of good governance 1.4%, Lack of agreement between political parties 1.4%, low pensions/ stipend 1.3%, world instability (Brexit/US election) 1% and Lack of transparency 1%. The remainder of issues mentioned by respondents, as can be seen from the info graphic (on page 4) under ‘other issues’ were all given a mention of less than 1%.
As can be seen from previous editions of the survey, the same issues of immigration, traffic, public transport, environment and corruption are repeatedly mentioned by respondents. It can therefore be said that such issues have failed to be addressed properly, and continue to persist.
In the April edition of the iSurvey, ‘corruption’ and ‘Panama scandal’ were mentioned by 30.8% of respondents. This time round, the proportion of mentions of corruption went down by 9.1 percentage points, while the Panama scandal did not feature at all.
In this edition of the iSurvey, the issue of corruption was awarded its own question, and respondents were asked: Do you think that the government is corrupt? A proportion of 47% believe so, however when asked to list an issue of greatest concern this ranked third rather than the number one ranking it received in April.
This further underscores the argument that an economic feelgood factor could be contributing to the high proportion of those who say there are no issues of greatest concern. This is further supported by the fewer mentions of ‘lack of jobs’.
That being said, the cost of living went from being mentioned by 1.8% of respondents, to 5.2% presently – a difference of 3.4 percentage points. It could be said, therefore, that while people appear to be content with the economic situation Malta is currently experiencing, there is growing concern that the pace at which the economy is growing could be leading rising costs without the ability of the public to keep up with those costs.
In fact, ‘low salaries/minimum wage’ was mentioned by 2% of respondents, up from the April iSurvey. Various stakeholders as well as the Opposition have called for the minimum wage to be increased, and for a serious discussion to take place. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, following
The same issues of immigration, traffic, public transport, environment and corruption are repeatedly mentioned by respondents
the presentation of the 2017 budget, has repeatedly said that now is the time for a serious discussion on the minimum wages.
Compared with the last survey, a fewer proportion of respondents, by eight percentage points, said they ‘don’t know’.
One of the biggest changes is the way people perceive the issue of traffic. The issue was mentioned as a greatest concern by just 3.6% of respondents in April, to 15.4% of respondents now. This translates into a difference of 11.8 percentage points. Despite efforts by the authorities to have traffic wardens and policemen stationed at gridlocked areas during peak times, and the infrastructural projects taking place to mitigate the problem, the increase of cars per every day – roughly at 38 – appears to not be enough to tackle the problem head on. Different sections of society have called on government to take radical decisions, however when such action has been merely mentioned to the public, this tends to be followed by outrage. A good example of this is the media reports, which were denied, of the possible introduction of a congestion tax.
While there have been relatively fewer reports of illegal migrants arriving on Maltese shores in 2016, this issue was still mentioned 0.7 percentage points more from April to November. ‘Immigration (illegal)/migrants taking our work’ received a mention by 5.4% of respondents.
Interestingly, the issue of terrorism/security has also gone down by 1.5 percentage points, from 4.5% to 3%. Terrorist attacks in Paris were fresh in the mind of the people around April, which could be why it was given a slightly higher proportion of mentions, however 2016 has been consistently peppered with such attacks all over Europe.
When looking at the top mention by PL voters and PN voters, unsurprisingly it was found that PL voters mentioned ‘nothing, there are no issues’ more than any other, at 30.5%. On the other hand, PN voters mentioned ‘corruption’ more than any other issue, at 22%.
The November 2016 iSurvey – the sixth of its kind – was commissioned to Business Leaders Malta on behalf of The Malta Independent. A total of 600 respondents were used, representative of age, gender and spread of localities. With such a sample size, the margin of error is +/- 4%. More info from the iSurvey will continue to emerge throughout this week.