Job concerns and the high cost of living will determine how people vote in the election, according to a survey commissioned by The Sunday Times. The survey, which was carried out by market research firm Misco, also showed that energy bills and fuel prices continue to feature highly amongst the concerns of potential voters.
The results of the survey are not surprising. They confirm what is known by one and all: that is, that the economis successes trumpeted by the Nationalist Party are being treated with caution by the electorate.
Although Gross National Income has grown by 22.6 percent over the past six years, inflation has registered a cumulative 14.6 percent increase. This means that real GNI has only improved by 8.0 percent in real terms. So, are people in general better off by 8.0 percent? Not at all. There is such a thing as fiscal drag, which means that the government takes a bigger chunk of additional income when it does not revise the income tax ceiling. This is exactly what the Nationalist Government did when it reneged on its 2006 electoral pledge to lower the income tax rates. At the same time the people at risk of poverty and social exclusion have risen by 3.8 percent during the same period to 83,000.
The Prime Minister’s claim that his government created 20,000 new jobs also appears to have been taken with a large pinch of salt, as it rightly should, otherwise the Misco survey would not have found that work remains a pressing concern. It is significant that concerns about jobs were mentioned by 20 percent of voters who clearly identified themselves as Nationalist. It seems that not even the PN’s followers swallow the party’s propaganda lock, stock and barrel, given that the official statistics show that the PM overstated the jobs figures by 7,000.
Recently, some media commented that voters are not taking seriously the PL’s commitment to lower energy bills. The Misco survey shows otherwise, as 84 percent percent of those who said they would vote Labour mentioned lower energy bills as a pressing issue, and a further 14 percent who still have to decide for whom to vote consider utility bills as at the forefront of their concerns.
But economic factors are not the only ones dominating the voters’ concerns. There is a more general yearning for change in the top five issues identified by voters. It seems that, the more Gonzi emphasises his economic successes, the less he is believed and the more voters want to hear a changed tune.