There are politicians that consider the electorate react to their policies and manifestos. These politicians believe that the power of their intelligence, policies and rational argument make people decide how they will vote at a general election. Clearly there are some voters who do decide based on these factors but, anecdotally, it seems to me that such voters are in fact a minority.
Speaking from observation and experience only (before mathematicians, statisticians, sociologists and students of political trends start to argue against the theory that I am about to expound on scientific grounds) I believe that, in reality, the decision of many to vote for one party or another is not such a rationally thought out decision. It is an emotional one. I will explain my theory.
Undoubtedly there are those who have strong sociological (and so essentially emotional) tendencies to vote for the relative right (GSD) and those who have the opposite tendencies to vote for the relative left (GSLP/Libs). In Gibraltar this tendency seems to favour the GSLP/Libs who have maintained a steady 35% (at least) following at every election won by the GSD. The GSD have clearly managed a majority in the past 4 elections, so there is no room to scorn the existence of a sizeable relative right wing vote either. It is my belief that this basic support for each party gives a slight advantage to the GSLP/libs.
In 1996 the GSD's win was based on a major loss of confidence in and emotional reaction against the GSLP by the electorate for well rehearsed and known reasons that I do not intend to repeat here. Although some of this support has been retained by the GSD, it is evident from past results that it has dwindled at each subsequent election. This loss of support is due not just to the natural wastage that prejudices an incumbent Government because people adversely affected by its decisions and acts are repulsed from again voting in favour of the governing party but also to another important factor, which is demographics.
Because the support for the GSD was not in the main ideological but rather for reasons of convenience and emotion and because older voters have passed away and a large number of younger voters are now enfranchised, there has been an "emotional" change. These younger voters will not have been prejudiced by the decisions and actions of the last GSLP administration. Also these young voters will emotionally favour change because change is what youth usually yearns for. The more important factor is that the leadership of the GSLP/Libs is seen to be more "local" than Peter Caruana.
The swing does not have to be big for there to be a change in Government. The difference between the two main parties at the last election was approximately 650 votes. If on the basis of my observations 325 have changed their minds then the vote would be even. My belief (as supported by recent opinion polls) is that more have changed their minds, additionally if one adds the youth vote, there is an explanation for the recent poll results.
Those who believe that the power of the GSD's arguments and policies will change the result at the next election are mistaken. It is difficult to change the emotions of a crowd by such tactics. If the GSD want to have a chance they need to make fundamental changes that will change the "emotion" of the electorate.