The Malta Independent 5 June 2020, Friday

PL leader: High percentage of undeclared voters in surveys were likely in Abela’s camp – Marmara

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 09:38 Last update: about 6 months ago

The high percentage of voters with undeclared intentions during the PL Leadership campaign were likely Robert Abela supporters, while the debates were likely a factor in what swayed voters from Fearne to Abela, university lecturer and statistician Vincent Marmara told The Malta Independent.

Robert Abela was elected PL Leader last weekend, and was sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday.


However the beginning of the campaign painted a very different picture, with Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne having been quite ahead in the lead.

The Malta Independent contacted statistician Vincent Marmara to analyse the result, and see how the underdog managed to surpass a man who most of the country was seeing as the next Prime Minister.

Marmara had, on election night after voting ended, indicated that the number of PL paid members who were surveyed prior to the election taking place who did not indicate who they would vote for was quite large, around 50%.

This newsroom asked him to break this down, and give his opinion as to why this was the case.

"The fact that you had 50% of people not wanting to say who they were going to vote for is interesting. Here a certain element of subjectivity came into play. This was not an election between two parties where we would have a lot of information and insight into their past, where one would to a certain extent known clearly the political parties' characteristics and the people who back them. This was an election between two individuals. The profiles of the voters of both candidates were different, and one began to see different trends."

"One of the strongest possible reasons could be that since we had many ministers and MPs backing one candidate, it could be that the people backing Robert Abela felt less comfortable declaring that they backed him." He said that they could have felt less comfortable as they would not want to go against what seemed to be a trend of many people in high positions backing one candidate.

Marmara said that here one has to quantify and ask: "if there is a group of supporters for a candidate who do not feel as comfortable declaring their backing than the supporters for the other candidate, can we quantify it? It was very hard, and this is why as soon as the voting process ended I issued my Facebook post on this issue. I was careful not to speak during the campaign in order not to influence in any way."

"Statistics and certain surveys indicated a certain result, and especially at the beginning of the campaign it showed a result indicating that Chris Fearne had a certain advantage, but then he started going down. When one begins to see that percentage dropping within a couple of days then clear indications start to come in. So there was a downward trend that one needed to analyse well. But the fact that around 50% remained not feeling comfortable to declare who they would vote for, then that is where the element of subjectivity comes in, and the question arises as to how to interpret it."

"I also believed that from those people who refused to answer, Robert Abela had a high percentage of them. This belief came from my experience. But again that was an opinion not based on quantitative information, but that is a percentage that one needs to analyse in a subjective manner due to the amount."

"In reality I also think that the media was more pro Chris Fearne from what I understand. and because in addition certain high profile people were backing Fearne then I think those backing Robert Abela felt a bit more uncomfortable in declaring their voting intention so that they would not be going against the wave of support."

This newsroom told Marmara that surveys originally showed Fearne in the lead by quite a bit, but then towards the end showed Abela catching up, and asked him whether this meant that those people who were not declaring began to declare, or whether it was due people switching their voting intentions from Fearne to Abela.

"I think there was a switch of votes, as in reality the people who remained undeclared remained very high, both at the beginning in terms of surveys and at the end in terms of surveys."

Asked what the turning point for these voters was, and what points led to them going from Fearne to Abela, he highlighted the debates. "I think it was the debates. I think that once the debates began the perception came about more strongly that Robert Abela was a stronger communicator."

He highlighted the Xarabank debate as a possible turning point where more of a shift from one candidate to another occurred. "So most likely it began to be felt when the candidates began to be interviewed more in the open, during the debates, interviewed one-to-one, and there Robert Abela began reducing the gap in a consistent way."



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