Religion and politics in Malta: Liberal reds, conservative blues

According to MaltaToday's latest survey, people who voted for the Labour Party in last year’s general election appear to be less trustful of Church leaders than Nationalist Party voters.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna suffers a major trust deficit among Labour voters, a MaltaToday survey found
Archbishop Charles Scicluna suffers a major trust deficit among Labour voters, a MaltaToday survey found

There are more Catholic Labourites than Nationalists but they appear to be less pious and more likely to want change in the Church, a MaltaToday survey found.

People who voted for the Labour Party in last year’s general election appear to be less trustful of Church leaders than Nationalist Party voters.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna suffers a major trust deficit among PL voters, which contrasts with the trust rating of Gozo Bishop Mario Grech. While Scicluna is trusted by 43.3% of PL voters, Grech enjoys the trust of 75.9% of those who voted PL in 2017.

The survey was conducted a week before the latest controversy concerning Scicluna’s retweet of an article that appeared on Shift News, comparing ‘the government’ with the Italian Mafia.

The trust levels for both bishops are higher among PN voters. Scicluna’s trust rating hits 89.6% among Nationalists, while Grech registers a trust rating of 80.5%.

When it comes to Church reforms, PL voters appear to be more liberal than their political counterparts.

While 53.2% of PL voters agree that priests should be able to marry, only 31.8% of PN voters believe so. Even when it comes to the ordination of women priests, PL voters exhibit a higher level of support to the idea.

But it also appears that PL voters are less beholden to their faith. When asked whether they considered themselves to be practising members of their religion, 58.5% of PL voters said Yes, as opposed to 81.5% of PN voters.

This was also reflected in Mass attendance. The survey asked people whether they had attended Mass the previous Sunday. While only 55.5% of PL voters said Yes, PN voters appeared more devout with 82.9% having celebrated Mass.

An interesting aspect that emerged from the survey is that people who form part of other Christian denominations and atheists were more likely to have voted PN.

The survey found that most of these non-Catholics were concentrated in the North and Northern Harbour regions, areas where the PN has traditionally enjoyed strong support.

However, despite the liberal-conservative divide that emerges between supporters of the two major parties, there is almost uniform disagreement with any suggestion that Catholicism should not be on public display.

Support for the removal of Catholicism as Malta’s official religion from the Constitution hovers around 7% among both sets of voters and agreement plummets even further when people were asked whether crucifixes should be removed from public places.

This could be indicative that irrespective of how committed they are to their faith, Maltese feel that Catholicism is part of the national identity and should remain so.

The survey was held between Wednesday 21 March and Tuesday 27 March among 553 respondents. Stratified random sampling was carried out in accordance to gender, age and region using National Statistics Office data as basis.

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