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MaltaToday 10 November 2021 MIDWEEK

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In fact, overall the percentage of those intending not to vote has remained sta- ble at around 12% in both the October and November surveys. What may sug- gest an increase in abstention in the next election is that younger voters have not re-trenched themselves despite rising political heat from an imminent elec- tion. This may defy pre-established trends, which see an increase in non-voters in mid-term years and a retrenchment dur- ing the electoral campaign. For example, before 2017 polls had registered a con- siderable decrease in abstention among PL leaning voters as soon as an election was called. It may also be the case that premature speculation on an imminent election in November may have further alienated younger voters, who may re- sent partisan games. It is also difficult to interpret the mes- sage sent by those who intend not voting at this particular moment in time. While some of these voters may be sending a message of distrust in the political sys- tem, others could be apathetic or sim- ply turned off from politics in general. While the former may be more likely to stay at home on election day, the latter may still return to the fold captivated by the electoral fever gripping the rest of the country. The problem for both parties would be if their antics and promises during the electoral campaign start recoiling rather than attracting voters. In short, the risk for both parties, but particularly for the PN which needs to bridge the gap, is that abstention could become a fad, especial- ly if younger voters find role models re- inforcing this trend. Yet the greatest obstacle for this from happening is that not voting also means giving up the little power one has; that of determining which party governs the country, which representatives are elected to parliament and even more crucial in the next election by what mar- gin Labour will be winning the general election. The latter consideration may well be a compelling reason for middle- of-the-road young voters to put a peg on their nose and vote PN, even if a larger number may well prefer to ride on the crest of Labour's success in a re-edition of the bandwagon effect seen in 2013 and 2017. The major problem for both parties is in fact the absence of compelling is- sues as EU membership was in 2003 and change in government was in 2013. And unlike a vote for a third party which stands for something, the reasons for abstaining are hard to decipher and interpret and may well end up relegated to a statistical curiosity in the post-elec- toral discussion. In fact, small but incre- mental increases in abstention over the past years from 97% in 2003 to 92% in 2017, have been largely ignored. In short, for abstention to be under- stood as a political message, it also needs to be articulated as a protest vote by so- cial movement of sorts. Yet this begs the question: if people are really fed up with the bipartisan system, why don't they vote for a third party or create one if those on offer fail to in- spire? 9 ANALYSIS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 10 NOVEMBER 2021 Only 45% and PL PN/PL Trust Abela/Grech leader will not vote, and only 45% and all this despite an during the last month. among 16-35s November 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Sep Oct Nov Won't vote Undecided Committed to vote PN/PL Trust Abela/Grech Don't trust either leader 39% of 16-35s trust neither party, 25% will not vote, and only 45% are committed to the PN or PL – and all this despite an intensification of campaigning during the last month. Political scepticism among 16-35s January to November 100 80 60 40 20 0 18-35 36-50 51-65 65+ 24.6 26.1 45.2 55.6 39.3 14.8 15.3 68.6 70 27.5 4.2 9.5 85.2 89.6 8.8 3 4.1 92.8 92.1 5.6 Won't vote Undecided Committed to vote PN/PL Trust Abela/Grech Don't trust either leader Scepticism in different age cohorts in November survey 18-35s who say they will not vote: how cohort changes from July to November 2021 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -30 Won't vote Don't trust either leader PN-voting PL-voting ADPD-voting Trust Abela Trust Grech 15.1% 24.6% +9.5 24.5% 39.3% +14.8 31.3% 12.8% -18.5 35.6% 32.4% -3.2 4.5% 2.3% -2.2 46.2% 40.7% -5.5 27.3% 14.9% -12.4 July 2021 Nov 2021 Change from one month to the other Bernard Grech and the PN the biggest losers among non-voters in the 18-35 demographic

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