The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

Lifestyle satisfaction, Covid-19, and party af iliation

Michael Briguglio Thursday, 10 December 2020, 06:42 Last update: about 2 months ago

How was lifestyle satisfaction in Malta during 2020, the year of Covid-19? Some recent socialscientific surveys provide some interesting answers.

Three quarters of Malta’s population were satisfied with their lifestyle during October 2020, according to a survey published by the University of Malta’s Faculty of Social Wellbeing. Indeed, 41% said they were very satisfied, whilst 34% said they were satisfied. Only 6% of respondents were not satisfied with their lifestyle. These figures are striking, considering the current global Covid-19 pandemic. Could it be that the Covid situation did not have such a negative impact on most people, despite the fact that others are facing daily hardships? Or perhaps a considerable number of people are being resilient and adapting in their own ways to the ‘new normal’, despite difficulties being faced? Or perhaps considerable weight is being given to the vaccine’s promise?

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A concurrent survey, published on 8 November by MaltaToday showed that 53.3% of respondents disagreed with a Covid-19 lockdown, 37.6% agreed, and 9.1% were unsure. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Labour Party supporters were overwhelmingly against a lockdown, with 65.9% being opposed, compared to 40.9% of Nationalist Party supporters. The amount of PN supporters in favour of a lockdown read 55.5%.

In the meantime, a European Parliament survey commissioned between 25 September and 7 October reported that 43% of Maltese respondents said that the pandemic had impacted their income. At the same time Maltese respondents were split regarding satisfaction with Covid-19 measures taken by the Government, with 49% responding positively and 48% responding negatively. This represented a fall in satisfaction compared to the previous survey, but here one should note that this survey was carried out before Malta’s 2021 Budget, which was presented on October 19.

Interestingly, the same survey states that 87% of Maltese were in favour of giving more competences to the EU to deal with the pandemic, with 79% of Maltese respondents agreeing that EU funds should be conditional to respective country’s implementation of rule of law and democratic principles. It seems to be the case that among the Maltese population, the interpretation of these principles varies.

Prior to the European Parliament survey, another EU-wide survey – Eurobarometer - was conducted last July. Here 58% of Maltese listed migration as their top worry, compared to 25% for health. To put things into context, Covid numbers in Malta were going down during that period, and Malta was experiencing its fair share of migration controversy. However, it is pertinent to note that immigration has topped 14 out of 15 Malta Eurobarometer surveys since the election of Labour in 2013. Prior to that, immigration was in pole position twice in ten surveys between 2008 and 2012, with factors such as utility bills and the economy being given more importance by respondents.

More recently, a survey published by MaltaToday on 12 November expressed a general satisfaction with Budget 2021. As regards ‘positive effect’ on one’s personal situation, 42.5% of respondents fell within the high category, 45.7% fell within the medium category and only 7.1% said it had a low impact. As regards budgetary impact on the country, the respective percentages read 52.8%, 33.9% and 7.7%. Once again, Labour voters tended to express a more positive view of the budget than Nationalist voters.

Here one may ask: Could it be the case that lifestyle satisfaction is somewhat related to one’s political preferences?

If one looks at recent scientific political polls, such as those by Vince Marmara and MaltaToday respectively, Labour’s keeps maintaining a considerable gap over the Nationalist Party, something which has been in place from 2009, not only in surveys, but also in elections, whether local, national, or European.

This may lead one to conclude that various people are expressing life-satisfaction based on whether their preferred political party is in government or opposition. But conversely, one may also say that one is choosing a particular party over the other because it is being perceived as doing more for one’s life satisfaction. If this is the case, party support from an increasing number of constituents needs to be earned, rather than taken for granted.

Here, it is pertinent to note that a survey held by the University of Malta’s Faculty of Social Wellbeing last October showed that 61% of the respondents would consider the economy as a factor when deciding who to vote for, followed by the wealth and financial situation of one’s family (60%), the party’s beliefs (52%), the party leader (43%) and the family’s loyalty to a particular party (36%).

At the same time, as I had written in my article ‘Non-voters, nomads and heretics’ in The Malta Independent in November 2019, the abstention rate in the last European elections was a record 27.3%. I argued that the 100,000 registered voters who chose not to vote may have had various reasons for this, but it is quite clear that there is a section of the population which does not have special feelings for party emblems, colours, or rituals.

Perhaps at this stage one may ask whether it makes sense to measure lifestyle satisfaction just through these percentages and numbers. Here I would argue that whilst these statistics give us the big picture, other methods may be used to dig deeper into specific realities. For example, qualitative research can investigate the lived experiences of real-life persons and groups - from those within silent majorities to those in specific life situations such as loneliness, poverty, business slowdown, new wealth, and addiction. Such research may reveal grounded social realities and help us understand the complexities, risks, opportunities, and challenges in Maltese society.

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