Dissecting surveys in a post-truth world
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
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.