THE EDGE MARKETS
The Edge online survey ran for two weeks between April 9 and April 24. A total 37,262 respondents participated in either the English and Malay versions. Geographically, the participants are predominantly located in urban and semi-urban areas (95.31%), with approximately half aged between 41 and 60 years old. A quarter are between 25 and 40 years old while another 22.61% are above 60. Some 42.56% of the respondents are Chinese; 31.23% are Malay; 15.24% are Indian; with 4.73% identifying as a Sabah/Sarawak Bumiputera and the remaining 6.24% as from other ethnic backgrounds.
One year since winning a historic general election, the Pakatan Harapan government is in a race against time to fully deliver on voters’ expectations.
At the heart of the rakyat’s dissatisfaction so far are cost of living and quality of life woes, which they want the PH government to put more effort into addressing.
That is the overarching signal from an online survey by The Edge, which gathered feedback from 37,262 respondents over a two-week period between April 9 and April 24. The number of respondents is the highest of any online survey done by The Edge.
From the 37,262 participants across both the English and Bahasa Melayu versions of the survey, a majority (52.76%) are either indifferent or outright unhappy when asked if they are satisfied with the PH government’s overall performance.
When asked if they felt the PH government had delivered on its election manifesto promises, most respondents report mixed feelings: 22,901 respondents or 61.46% feel that PH has kept its promises to a certain extent.
That said, it is worth noting that the number of respondents who said no — 11,576 or 31.07% — far outnumber the proportion who said they believe PH has delivered on its manifesto promises at just 7.47%.
It should ring alarm bells — if those are not yet tolling — for the PH coalition as the demographics of the survey participants indicate that they mostly came from PH’s own support base.
About 95.31% of the respondents were located in urban and semi-urban areas, which are traditional PH strongholds. Chinese respondents make up the biggest proportion at 42.56%, followed by Malay respondents (31.23%) and Indian respondents (15.24%).
As a rough gauge, a Merdeka Centre assessment, reported in June last year, indicated that in the 14th general election (GE14) held on May 9, 2018, PH enjoyed up to 95% support among Chinese voters and up to 70% among Indian voters. Its support level among Malay voters was at most 30%, according to the Merdeka Centre.
While not an apple-to-apple comparison, The Edge’s survey findings indicate that even among PH voters, weariness is growing amid perceived underperformance on the government’s part.
That is not to say that the PH government is not doing anything right at all, based on the survey responses. Asked what they see as areas that have improved, 65.01% of respondents point to better press freedom and freedom of expression.
Another 63.52% say they see corruption levels as falling, while a third (33.74%) think government services have become more efficient. Some 30.77% of respondents also feel a greater sense of belonging to the national narrative.
Overall, at the one-year mark, 55.13% of respondents are either “satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the efforts put in by the PH government to address their problems. That said, the proportion of respondents who are “not satisfied” with the efforts they are seeing is the largest bloc at 37.77%, compared to 7.10% who reported being “very satisfied”.
Cost of living tops priority list
The albatross around PH’s collective necks is the cost of living, according to the respondents, and other issues that directly impact their quality of life.
Coming back to the areas seen as having improved under PH, personal income levels garnered the least votes from the respondents at just 6.39%. Unsurprisingly, some 40.50% of respondents chose the cost of living as the most important issue they want the government to address urgently.
At a distant second is economic growth with 15.45%, followed by racial and religious tensions (12.29%) as well as crime and corruption (10.62%).
At the other end of the scale, a whopping 62.72% of respondents ranked environmental and climate change as being at the bottom of the priorities wish list.
For perspective, the second lowest issue on the respondents’ priorities list was civil liberties and institutional reforms (7.97%), followed by government debt (6.84%).
The findings so far are consistent with a dissection of the PH election manifesto promises that have been fulfilled and not fulfilled so far.
On the one hand, pledges for institutional reform and to unshackle investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal as well as to tackle corruption, especially within the public service, are visibly being upheld.
In particular, ousted prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — who was among the key figures at the centre of the 1MDB controversy — went on trial on April 3.
On the other hand, PH has found its pledges related to the economy the hardest to keep. It abolished the Goods and Services Tax, which was blamed for the rising cost of living over the past several years, but has been largely unable to lower it since. Adding salt to the wound, there was an outcry over allegations that the reintroduced Sales and Services Tax had, in fact, caused the prices of some products and services to rise further.
PH’s other broken (or delayed, as it had argued) promises include the immediate reduction of petrol prices to RM1.50 per litre post-GE14; the abolition of highway toll charges nationwide; and postponement of National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan repayments for lower-income earners.
Note that post-GE14, prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted that some of PH’s election promises were unrealistic as the coalition had not expected victory.
More recently, key PH leaders have said that the government should not be shackled to its manifesto promises and, instead, should focus on doing what is right.’
Ranking the ministries
When asked to rank the performance of PH ministers, 72.67% of respondents chose the Minister of Transport Anthony Loke Siew Fook as the top performer in meeting their expectations so far.
This is followed by the Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo (65.59%); the prime minister himself (62.77%); Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin (62.26%); and Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng (62.13%).
Interestingly, top-ranked ministries share a common thread of having more impact on the urban voter base than the rural voters.
Loke, in particular, introduced an unlimited monthly public transport pass to benefit urban commuters, among others, and Gobind pushed through a 25% reduction in broadband prices for consumers.
At the other end of the scale, Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik was ranked highest in terms of not meeting expectations by 28,202 respondents or 81.22%.
He is followed by Minister of Rural Development Datuk Seri Rina Harun (80.03%); Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi (79.71%); Minister of Entrepreneur Development Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof (78.32%); and Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Datuk Salahuddin Ayub (73.09%).
Maszlee’s rating is unsurprising because hwe has come under heavy criticism since taking office over a myriad of matters, including his initiatives to allow black school shoes; to include 1MDB in the history curriculum; and his urging of hotels to open up their pools for swimming lessons for schoolchildren.
That said, the visibility of his portfolio — as well as especially high expectations among urban Malaysians for a hard-hitting revamp of the education system — may also have contributed to the respondents’ displeasure so far.
Overall, The Edge’s survey findings reaffirm the heavy burden of expectations that remains on the PH government, as well as declining patience for it to deliver on its election promises.
However, most respondents still feel PH is the best option available to steer the nation forward. Asked who they would vote for should an election be held today, 62.55% chose PH.
Tellingly, 18.76% would choose neither PH nor Barisan Nasional, marginally more than the proportion who want BN back in power (18.68%).
Similarly, despite their misgivings so far, 43.96% of respondents feel either optimistic or very optimistic about Malaysia’s future. Another 31.90% are only slightly optimistic, while 24.15% report feeling pessimistic.
That said, there is a strong message that PH needs to pick up the pace in fixing the problems it inherited from the BN government.
Some 26.07% of respondents, or over a quarter, think PH should only be given an extra year to do this, while another 19.52% want them to finish doing so within two years.
In fact, 19.68% think PH has already had enough time to fix the problems it inherited from the previous government.
It is a clear signal that, whatever else, PH needs to get its act together quickly in its four remaining years in power if it hopes to retain power in the next general election.