Candidate quality tops voters’ considerations – Merdeka Center Survey

News Release
January 13th 2009

BANGI – Days ahead of the crucial Kuala Terengganu by-elections, an opinion poll conducted by Merdeka Center for Opinion Research finds that voters were more intense in considering candidate quality over other factors such as issues and contesting parties.

The survey also found a marked dichotomy between the sentiments expressed by Malay and Chinese voters in the district over the direction of the country and state as well as on issues.
The poll’s findings hopes to uncover issues affecting the voters there as they make choices as well as to uncover how they are responding to statements and campaign issues brought forth by the contesting parties.
The survey reveals that a majority of voters in the Malay-majority constituency felt that things in the country and state of Terengganu were headed in the right direction.
However, upon closer scrutiny the survey found that Chinese voter sentiments were more subdued, with respect to the direction of the country, only 36% of Chinese respondents agreed that it was in “the right direction” and were split at 50% with respect to the direction of the state of Terengganu. At the same time, 70% of Malay voters said that “things were in the right direction” for the state of Terengganu.
When given a list of issues that they feel the state government should pay attention to, respondents chose “controlling inflation” (21%), “strengthening the position of Islam” (26%) and “bringing continued development” (16%) as most important. Among Chinese voters however, 53% wanted the government “to treat non-Malay communities more
fairly” and a further 18% cited “fighting corruption”.
Reflecting perhaps the developments surrounding the selection of the respective contesting candidates, the survey found that voters were more intense in considering candidate quality over other factors such as issues, contesting parties or party leaders.
The survey found that 77% of voters remarked candidate quality as “very important” as opposed to 55% and 67% for current issues and party capability, respectively.
Among the Chinese respondents however, the issue of fair treatment for non-Bumiputras appeared to have strong currency. 75% strongly or somewhat agreed that by electing a non-BN candidate, the community could send a strong signal to the BN ruling government.
In another question, 56% of Chinese and 46% of Malay respondents agreed that voting opposition could push the BN government to “correct itself”.
The issue of Hudud captured the notice of only one-half of the Chinese voters in Kuala Terengganu. Only 18% of the Chinese voters interviewed remarked that the issue plays a “very important”, while a further 32% saying “somewhat important” role in the election.
The survey found that issues pertaining to perceived threats to Malay political power did not resonate in the Malay dominant constituency. Only 17% agreed that “Malay political power was weakened by demands made by non Malay communities after the March 8th 2008 general elections” while 74% felt that “Malay political power was weakened by
corrupt and self serving leaders”.
Voting Intentions
The survey found it difficult to ascertain the voting intention of voters in the district at the time the poll was conducted. Based on observations on the data collected, the survey believes that the Malay vote at the point in time the survey was conducted to be split with a small margin of voters, perhaps around 8% still remaining undecided. The survey found that some 11% of voters have not made their choices at that point in time.
Tendencies among Chinese voters were also difficult to gauge but observations on responses towards issues indicate a slight leaning in favor of the opposition.
The opinion poll was carried out by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research between 7- 11th January 2009 to gauge voters’ perceptions of current issues and developments surrounding the by-election. 527 voters registered in Kuala Terengganu comprising 408 Malay and 119 Chinese respondents were interviewed by telephone in the poll.
Respondents were selected on the basis of random stratified sampling along ethnicity, gender and state constituency. The survey was funded internally by Merdeka Center for Opinion Research for release to the public.
About Merdeka Center for Opinion Research
Merdeka Center for Opinion Research was formally established in 2001 as an independent organization focused on public opinion research and socio-economic analysis. Its members comprise social scientists and professionals with qualifications in economics, communications, marketing and law. Merdeka’s mission is to act as a bridge between ordinary Malaysians and other stakeholders with the leading members of the nation – by collecting public opinion studies and expressing them through survey results, analysis and position papers.