It’s very obvious that participants in this poll are mainly opposition sympathisers. Considering that in the 2006 general election, only 34 percent voted for opposition candidates, the participants are not representative of voters in general.
What I believe this poll captures is these opposition sympathisers’ opinion of various opposition parties’ messaging efforts. It shows this group making distinctions among the various parties, and I hope opposition parties can get from here a sense of how much they need to work on getting their platforms across and what else they need to do to get support.
Votker poll no. 1 opened on 4 September 2010. It was an anonymous, online survey publicised only on this site and therefore should have attracted primarily readers of Yawning Bread. Responses plateau’ed off after 4 – 5 days and I closed it after 7 days, around midnight 10/11 September.
There were altogether 314 responses, of which 303 were from Singapore citizens. A tiny number of them were below voting age (i.e. under 21), but I decided not to exclude them because in time, they too will be voters. See the pie chart above. About two in three of the respondents were in the 21 – 40 age group.
One can sense that the great majority of respondents were opposition party sympathisers from the answers to Question No. 5:
63 percent of 303 respondents said they were “very unlikely” to vote for the People’s Action Party (PAP). Each box in the chart above represents 10 percentage points.
(You will notice that the chart does not contain the percentage numbers. I deliberately omitted them because numbers would give the impression of precision which no poll of this nature, especially an online one, can ever give. I would prefer readers to absorb the charts impressionistically, which is the only meaningful way to work with straw polls. The more the bar moves to the right, the more positive is the result for that party.)
The parties that face the least resistance (i.e. in the sense of respondents not wanting to vote for them) are Workers’ Party (WP) and Reform Party (RP). The same two parties also garnered the largest number of “very likely” answers.
The first question in the survey asked whether you had any idea of a party’s ideological position, and if so, how clear it is to you.
Respondents said they were clearest about the PAP’s position; 81 percent said it seemed “fairly clear” or “very clear” to them.
Among opposition parties, they were clearer about the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) than the rest, but by a whisker ahead of RP. Respondents were least clear about the platforms of National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA). For both of them, about 87 percent of respondents said they had “no idea at all” or “a vague idea”.
Be careful with the answers, though. The respondents might believe they knew a party’s position, but what they believed may not actually be the party’s position.
The second question asked if they agreed with the various parties’ ideological positions. This was the only question that was not mandatory, which means the percentages for each party are not based on all 303 citizen participants, but on a varying number (indicated on the right side column within the chart).
Straight away, you will notice that although a great majority had earlier said the PAP’s ideological position was clear to them, here some 69 percent said they “strongly” or “partially” disagreed with it.
Among the opposition parties, RP and SDP attracted the largest percentages of strongly held opinions. Being the two opposition parties for which people thought they had the clearest idea of their platforms, it stands to reason that people would also have the clearest opinion of those platforms.
NSP and SDA had a large majority (74 and 66 percent respectively) of respondents saying they were “neutral” about the party platforms; this in addition to the fact that these two parties had the largest number of participants not even answering this question. Seen in conjunction with Question No. 5 (How likely are you to vote for them?), it would appear that the support demonstrated in Question No. 5 is more because they are Not PAP, than because people knew or liked what these parties stood for.
WP is somewhere in between. Few people had strong opinions about their positions. One could say therefore that while WP had support, that support was softer, less committed, than for RP and SDP.
The next question sort of goes over the same ground. Yet, there’s a subtle difference. Where Question No. 1 asked whether they thought they knew about each party’s position, here the respondent is led to think about how they came to know about the party’s position. Was it something they surmised from clues here and there, or was it something consciously communicated to them by the party?
RP and SDP stand out. Not only were their bars furthest to the right, they had the biggest blocks of “very impressed” among the opposition parties.
That said, I’m not sure how much weight this finding has, because these two parties use the internet more than the rest. The sample that participated in the survey were probably regular ‘net users, and so a bias would have been introduced.
On the other hand, if one is of the opinion that ‘net users are no longer a niche group, but a substantial part of total voter population, then it would be hard to dismiss the importance of these parties’ internet efforts.
Question No. 4 went off in a totally different direction. It asked whether they expected each party to offer credible candidates. I believe it presented survey participants with some difficulty because I deliberately did not define what “credible” meant. The PAP has tried to define it for voters by saying it means academic and professional qualifications and/or a track record of working within bureaucratic organisations — something akin to the Confucianist idea of a “mandarin” coming out of imperial examinations.
Without doubt, some respondents would have used this definition, simply because no alternative definitions have been proposed in Singapore’s political discourse.
But I suspect that a substantial number of participants would have subconsciously reinterpreted this question to something akin to “likeability” factor. I say this because if nearly everyone had used the PAP’s definition, then the bar for the PAP in the chart below would be far to the right. It is not; some people are obviously applying a different definition.
Of the opposition parties, WP and RP lead the pack — I suspect for different reasons. RP has introduced their first batch of candidates and the party has tended to focus on the fact that its leader’s and candidates’ academic qualifications are comparable to PAP candidates’. This message may be getting through.
The WP has never made a big do about academic qualifications, but people have a memory of the candidates this party presented at the last general election. There was considerable excitement among voters about them and presumably, the public expects WP to present candidates of similar profile the next time around. I think the results for WP are more based on likeability than the PAP’s definition of credibility.
If you go back to look at the topmost bar chart (i.e. how likely are you to vote for a party?), you will recall that WP was ahead in the voter preference stakes with RP second and SDP third. This despite the fact that WP does not score well on messaging. It therefore seems that credibility/likeability is more important than clarity of party position.
To review the survey form, click the thumbnail at left.