Votker 2: Readers want electoral system changes

A large majority of Yawning Bread readers would like to see Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) abolished, and comprehensive overseas voting catered for. There was also considerable support for lowering the voting age to 18 and introducing proportional representation.

This came out of the second Votker poll which opened for responses on 14 September morning and closed at midnight 19/20 September.

There were 283 responses. 271 were from Singapore citizens (95.8 percent), eight were from Permanent Residents (2.8 percent) and four were from persons who were neither (1.4 percent). I decided not to sift out the non-citizens, firstly because their numbers were small; secondly because this poll did not ask for voting intentions.

Thus, unless otherwise stated, all results below are based on 283 respondents.

As mentioned in the first Votker results article, as an anonymous, online poll, we must treat results with great caution. Approach them impressionistically, rather than fixate on the exact numbers or percentages. Note also that the sample population is very unlikely to be representative of all Singaporeans. The first Votker poll indicated that by and large, Yawning Bread readers (and poll participants) are opposition sympathisers.

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Four of the ten questions enquired about significant changes to the electoral system: Voting age, overseas voting, abolishing GRCs and introducing proportional representation. In each of the bars below, its full length represents 100 percent, and each little box represents 10 percent. The redder the bar, the stronger the support for the mentioned changes.

My guess is that people have more definite opinions when they are familiar with something. Given that GRCs have existed for over 20 years and readers are probably tech-savvy, clear majorities are seen with Q2 and Q3.

With proposals calling for something new and untested (in Singapore) even though they are commonplace in other countries, opinion is more liquid. Thus for Q1 and Q6, “Strongly agreed” makes up only 30+ percent and 40+ percent respectively. There’s a still a majority in favour on both questions, but they comprise more of “Somewhat agree”.

Taken together, these four questions suggest unhappiness over the existing electoral system, and a desire to see some overhaul.

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It’s all very well to say let’s abolish GRCs, but the People’s Action Party (PAP) justified it (20 years ago) by saying that it was needed to ensure minority-race representation in Parliament. Do readers consider this a valid angle?

Look how mixed opinion is. More interesting to me was how the non-Chinese pie resembled the Chinese pie, with the exception that 12 percent of the non-Chinese “Strongly agreed” with the view that the electorate was race-biased. (But since the sample size of non-Chinese was small — only 33 respondents — treat it with extreme caution.)

This suggests that the Chinese are slightly more likely to dismiss such concerns of bias and the non-Chinese slightly more cognisant of it.

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Still on the question of GRCs, Question #5 asked what should be their maximum size, if we cannot do away with them altogether.

A thumping majority said they should not be larger than three-member GRCs. Almost nobody supported the current sizes of five- and six-member GRCs.

I don’t know why 11 percent said they had no opinion; perhaps they were so totally against the idea of GRCs, the size question seemed irrelevant to them.

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Respondents might want changes to the electoral system, but has any of our opposition parties promised such? Or rather, which parties do poll respondents believe have promised such?

For his question, poll participants could check more than one party. Thus each bar represents the percentage (out of 283 responses) which checked the name of the respective party as having promised to change the electoral system. Once again, each little box represents 10 percentage points.

I found the results interesting. Not a single party scored above 50 percent. In fact, one third of respondents believed that no party has promised anything by way of radical change.

Is this because opposition parties have avoided addressing the issue? Or they have, but few people noticed?

The two parties that scored highest were Reform Party (49 percent) and Singapore Democratic Party (39 percent). These were the same two parties which in Votker Poll 1 scored best in terms of clarity of their positioning. I haven’t yet checked their manifestoes, so I can’t tell whether respondents really knew that these parties have proposed amendments to the electoral system, or whether they were merely imputing these intentions to RP and SDP.

Perhaps someone, in comments below, can clarify these parties’ stands.

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Even more interesting was the response to Question #8. This tested what one might call the “cynicism factor” or “naivete factor”, depending on whether you’re the glass-half-empty or glass-half-full kind of person.

Three in four respondents failed to give a “strong” opinion, suggesting widespread doubt to one degree or another. In other words, participants didn’t fully trust opposition parties to behave all that differently from the PAP should they come into power.

Mind you, this ambivalent result is coming from a sample that is already sympathetic to opposition parties!

If anything points to the need for opposition parties to be clearer in their messaging and to work on building trust, this must surely be it.

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To review the survey form (no longer accepting responses) click on the thumbnail at right.

13 Responses to “Votker 2: Readers want electoral system changes”


  1. 1 Sensible 20 September 2010 at 21:36

    People and the opposition have already reached the same footing stage. Sympathise with opposition parties is as good as sympathise with Singaporeans. The people dilemma with opposition is the same against the current ruling party and their policies. PAP is long gone detached party from the people. The next election is the people vs the PAP. I will not doubt what opposition parties can deliver if given enough resources and stopped being mocked by the arrogant party. Keeping silence of their idealogy doesn’t mean they have no ideology for the people bcause ST is likely to paint whatever alternative manifestoes in bad light anyway. Nothing is fair, let our vote speaks louder to a deaf ear.

  2. 2 Voting RP 20 September 2010 at 22:17

    The Secretary General of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam is the creator of Facebook group called “Abolish GRC”. The description on FB group is “For all Singaporeans who believe that GRCs are an obstacle to true representation and for all Singaporeans who have been deprived of a chance to vote because the Opposition does not have sufficient resources to contest large GRC constituencies. If you believe that large GRCs have no place in a Democracy and that Singapore should go back to SMCs join this group. The future is in your hands. Stand up for what you believe in.”

    He has consistently voiced his opposition to GRC system in many of his responses and statements. For those interested you can go to http://votingrp.worpress.com.

  3. 3 Brandon 21 September 2010 at 01:14

    How about doing a truly scientific, opinion poll? What would it take to have a truly representative sample of our population, and an unbiased questionnaire?

    • 4 KiWeTO 21 September 2010 at 06:49

      truly representative?

      in the heartlands? in orchard road? online?

      such an easy term to bandy about; so much more difficult to pin down.

      Since IIRC, the election laws prohibit actually vote polling, then, how can one come close to “truly representative”? tea-leaf readings perhaps?

      As for a truly unbiased questionnaire – even with the best of efforts/intentions by the questioner – there will be some element of bias (question or answer) that cannot be controlled for.

      as YB stresses, it is an indicator. Absolutes? No, available.

      Even if one found the ability to complete a truly representative poll, what would that then tell us? Confirmation bias in the voters on actual polling day? Or unconfirmation bias(where a “bad” result from the opinion poll leads to the opposite outcome), In Singapore, such a thing would not turnout any more was-lazy-to-vote voters than other voting systems. (but give the actors* more ‘ammunition’ to work with.)

      E.o.M.
      [*the normative descriptive of politicians as ‘actors’ in politics seem doubly punned to me!]

      • 5 yuen 21 September 2010 at 07:04

        as a matter of fact, the government would have been conducting quite representative surveys to know the situation on the ground so that it can take measures to address widely felt issues, and whether it is a good time for election; these probably cost more than the 30-50K YB quoted

  4. 6 yawningbread 21 September 2010 at 01:33

    Brandon – what would it take? Something like $30,000 to $50,000. Let me know when your donation cheque is ready.

    Are you also saying my questionnaire was biased? In what way?

  5. 7 Goondo 21 September 2010 at 09:45

    Alex, you should stand for election. You have a good brain. The only thing stand in your way may be Singaporean can not accept that you are gay.

  6. 8 yuen 21 September 2010 at 12:36

    to stand as candidate (or candidates, for GRC) you have to put down a big deposit, which will be forfeited if your vote is too low; PAP can afford to pay the deposit and has confidence of getting certain percentages; others are not as fortunate

    maybe you want to make a donation to help him pay the deposit money?

  7. 9 Roy 21 September 2010 at 15:21

    Only 283 responses? I would have thought you have many thousands of readers Alex. A bit dissappointed your articles are the bees knees.

    • 10 yawningbread 21 September 2010 at 21:25

      The hits are way above the number of responses, indicating that most readers do not wish to participate in the survey. This was also the case with the first poll.

      On the other hand, don’t imagine that new media has that wide a readership. We are a drop in the ocean compared to the the Straits Times or New Paper. That’s why I personally do not expect to see a lot of difference between the next election’s results and the last. Because not much as changed.

      Perhaps I should add a word a caution to anyone who reads political stuff on the web and somehow thinks that there are lots like him. I don’t think so at all. You’re the outlier. The typical Singaporean is as politically apathetic as ever. Not much has changed.

  8. 11 wikigam 21 September 2010 at 15:43

    Condo,

    you may surprise, Majority of Singapore Man are gay or bisexual and very scared to be labelled as “HOMO” . The country ranking number one as most “liar man” in the world.

  9. 12 Goondo 21 September 2010 at 20:27

    wikigam, are you suggesting that Alex seeks treatment? dont be rediculous.

  10. 13 marine parade lobster 21 September 2010 at 23:58

    As a person who has lived in “marine parade lobster” grc all my life, i would really really like to see the size of grcs reduced. At least then i can vote. Yes i know thats there are grcs that havent seen contest in ages (eg tanjong pagar), but then one of the mps in this grc likes to make himself a “special candidate” for other grcs/smc. No prizes for guessing who.

    Also i realised im one of the 8 partially Chinese people who voted in the poll. Voted for strongly disagree since JB Jayaratnam actually won against a Chinese candidate in 1981. hence the whole grc to ensure minority representation is just….rubbish.


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