Dis­sect­ing sur­veys in a post-truth world

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Much has been said over the past week fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of The Malta In­de­pen­dent’s iSur­vey which, amongst other things, has re­vealed that as things stand Labour will win the next elec­tion by a big mar­gin and Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat en­joys a jolly lead over his coun­ter­part, the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Si­mon Busut­til. The same con­clu­sions were reached by a sep­a­rate sur­vey pub­lished in Mal­taTo­day.

In true Mal­tese char­ac­ter, pun­dits ran to the com­ments board point­ing fin­gers at Si­mon Busut­til. Some took the op­por­tu­nity to stone his skill and cred­i­bil­ity sow­ing doubt in his abil­ity to lead his party to vic­tory while oth­ers sim­mered in dis­be­lief as they saw their leader shrink in pop­u­lar­ity when they ex­pected him to shoot through the roof fol­low­ing a string of scan­dals from the Labour camp. Cheap po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts that flock to­gether on so­cial me­dia nowa­days im­me­di­ately of­fered their free ad­vice. The leader of the PN should call it a day and make way for some­one with bet­ter charisma, they lec­tured. On the other hand, the Prime Min­is­ter’s can­did rat­ings were

Ed­i­tor’s pick

hardly ques­tioned by any­one fol­low­ing the po­lit­i­cal scene.

But for us to com­mis­sion sur­veys with­out analysing prop­erly their ef­fect would be a dis­ser­vice to our read­ers. So let’s zero on Si­mon Busut­til and if what many are claim­ing, fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of the iSur­vey, is con­struc­tive and true.

The iSur­vey doesn’t only as­sess trust rat­ings and vot­ing in­ten­tions. It also asks spe­cific ques­tions on spe­cific top­ics, such as traf­fic, the LNG tanker, the en­vi­ron­ment and cor­rup­tion. On most of these is­sues, the ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents agreed with the po­si­tions taken by Si­mon Busut­til, bar the one on how safe is the LNG tanker. This is when it gets mind­bog­gling. How are peo­ple re­act­ing pos­i­tively to the PN state­ments and cam­paigns but its leader fails to top the chart? Equally, why is Joseph Mus­cat so pop­u­lar when ac­cord­ing to the sur­veys peo­ple are so an­gry with the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion, they think the en­vi­ron­ment is not safe­guarded and feel the govern­ment is cor­rupt?

While we don’t ne­c­es­sar­ily have the an­swer, the only re­ply that springs to mind is the fact that vot­ers do not switch overnight. The re­sults of the iSur­vey show that peo­ple want to voice their anger at some of the Mus­cat’s Govern­ment de­ci­sions but on the other hand still feel that Malta is mov­ing for­ward. So, in per­fect equi­lib­rium, the peo­ple will re­main eco­nom­i­cal with Si­mon Busut­til’s trust rat­ing un­til they see him re­act­ing harder to the is­sues they are dis­sat­is­fied with and softer with what they per­ceive as pos­i­tive such as cheaper elec­tric­ity bills, sale of cit­i­zen­ship and jobs.

The worst thing those in the PN can do at this mo­ment is to give up on Si­mon Busut­til. He may not be as pop­u­lar as his coun­ter­part but he is def­i­nitely a clean op­tion, pos­si­bly the clean­est from the lot. In­stead, they should rally be­hind their leader and open up to his new style of lead­er­ship within the PN.

On the other hand, Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat ought to read the iSur­vey with a crit­i­cal eye. He needs to lis­ten to what peo­ple are sug­gest­ing be­fore it’s too late and be­fore his per­sonal trust starts to buckle un­der the weight of his es­tab­lish­ment.

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