Malaysia is heading in the wrong direction, survey shows


SOME 72% of Malaysian voters felt the country was headed in the wrong direction, a view that was prompted by concerns over the state of the economy, political uncertainty arising from the upcoming elections and other topics such as corruption and inter-ethnic issues.

The sentiment was revealed through a survey conducted by Merdeka Centre among 1,209 Malaysian voters aged 18 and above to seek their views on the upcoming election, leaders and political parties.

“According to the survey, only 20% maintained that the country is on the right track.

“However, there is a slight dip in the ‘right track’ figure after the dissolution of Parliament was announced. The figure was at 26% in September 2022,” the opinion research centre said in a press statement recently.

The centre added that a majority of voters (74%) also felt the economy is the country’s biggest problem at the moment.

“Other problems that the voters feel is plaguing the country are political issues (3%), racial (3%) and leadership (3%).

“They, however, were split with what they are concerned about as 31% said it is inflation, followed by political instability (13%), corruption (12%) and enhancing economic growth (12%),” the survey showed.

Merdeka Centre mentioned that issues driving the voter’s motivations are fairly universal — the economy and inflation.

“But we now see voters genuinely concerned over political uncertainty, as it may mean that public priorities take a back seat compared to leaders’ efforts to stay or gain power,” it said.

As for the government’s approval ratings, it currently stands at 31% with 60% reporting dissatisfaction whereas the approval rating for former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is at 42%.

On the topic of factors that drive voting choices, the survey found that preferences among the voters are now centred on local candidates (31%), followed by the party (21%) compared to national leadership (13%).

“We note that there are some differences between the age group where first-time young voters aged up to 20 were twice likely to look at national leadership (24%) compared to the rest of the electorate.

“Younger voters were also more open with their responses compared to older generations,” it said.

As for the candidate characteristics, the survey indicated that the two most important desirable features were someone who “has good ideas for the country” (27%) and “clean and trustworthy” (24%). “There is lesser emphasise on individuals who can bring development to the areas as only 13% of the respondents prefer this for their candidate characteristics.

“Here again, 34% of young voters placed greater emphasis on ‘clean and trustworthy’ compared to only 4% who placed importance on a candidate’s ability to ‘bring development’,” it said.

Merdeka Centre highlighted that it is difficult for it to estimate the outcome of GE15 due to the presence of three significant coalitions with large bases of support as well as uncertainties on likely voters’ turnout rates on the polling on Nov 19.

“At this point, with the lower-than-expected level of Malay voter support for Barisan Nasional at 32% compared to 37% in September and a small increase towards both Pakatan Harapan (13% from 10% previously) and Perikatan Nasional (15% to 20%), it is possible to imagine that no single coalition will attain a large enough plurality to form a government with just one other party or coalition.

“Instead, there is a rising possibility that at least three or more parties or coalitions are needed to cooperate to form a government with a simple majority,” the centre said.

The survey is conducted by Merdeka Centre between Oct 19 and Oct 28 and the respondents were sampled from each of the 222 parliamentary constituencies.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition