Election buzz a minority interest

Compared to the low number of hits for the People’s Action Party (PAP) videos introducing new candidates, Singapore Democratic Party videos do pretty well. One, featuring party leader Chee Soon Juan speaking in the Fujian language has 62,000 hits this evening.  You may want to note that this video was uploaded to Youtube on 14 April 2011, whereas that of Foo Mee Har, who had the largest number of hits (about 4,000 on the same day) out of the seven PAP candidates’ videos embedded into my previous post, was uploaded three weeks earlier, on 23 March 2011.

Even this video featuring Vincent Wijeysingha and Chee Siok Chin, uploaded a week after Foo Mee Har’s on 31 March 2011 has reached 10,150 hits tonight.

P.S. You might want to act in response to the above appeal, and help any other party too that in your view deserves your support.

Like in previous elections, the online buzz is opposition-sympathetic. The difference in video viewership says it all.

Yet, despite new media being similarly excited in the 2006 general election, the actual result of the poll was very much within the range indicated by previous general elections. The People’s Action Party hauled in 66.6 percent of votes cast and garnered 82 out of 84 parliamentary seats.

In an earlier post Will the morning after see 86:1?, I wondered if things would  be any different this time. Certainly, internet use would have increased through the intervening years. Social media is making its appearance this time around when it really didn’t exist the last time.

The internet is in a virtual tie with newspapers (36.3 percent versus 35.3 percent) as the chief means of tracking local political events and issues among voters aged 21 to 34, reported the Straits Times on 16 April 2011. This was based on a survey of 402 voters conducted via face-to-face interviews the previous month.

But before you get too excited, only 15.2 percent of this age cohort kept track of local political events and issues “often”, as you can see from pie chart above.

(All charts on this page were taken from the Straits Times)

Even more telling, in my view, were the results from another question in the survey, wherein 42 percent said they would not be disappointed if there was a walkover in their constituency.  Another 26.9 percent were indifferent to the matter. That’s a total of 69 percent.

You could say that a large proportion of that 42 percent were probably supporters of the PAP. Every election since the late 1960s, this party has fielded candidates in every constituency and so whenever walkovers have happened, it has always benefitted them. Given this history, when people say they would not be disappointed with walkovers in their wards, you can deduce that they probably would have voted PAP anyway if there were a contest. They may be politically apathetic or politically opinionated, but in the voting booth, they will mostly be marking in favour of the PAP.

Th 26.9 percent who said they were indifferent may be described as the apathetic ones; they do not particularly care who represents them in parliament. How they will vote once in the voting booth is a good question.

On the other hand, the 31.1 percent who said they would be disappointed with a walkover would include a large number of opposition party supporters among them. That figure is close to what most political observers say is the bedrock of opposition support in Singapore: 25 percent.

Let me quickly touch on the last question featured here: Are you keen to vote in the coming election? 73.9 percent said Yes. At first sight, it may appear to contradict the 31.1 percent who said they would be disappointed to see a walkover. However, most Singaporeans would be able to guess what the 73.9 percent figure really means. We’ve had so many walkovers in the past, large numbers of people just want a chance to walk into a polling station and cast a vote. The act of voting is something they feel they’ve been deprived of; it doesn’t really represent political consciousness about parties and candidates.

The bottom line, reading this survey, is that only about 30 percent are deeply interested in the upcoming election.

No doubt, this survey by the Straits Times was only of the 21-34 age group. However, a survey done by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2006 found that there was no huge difference in political attitudes in terms of age. In the absence of a separate current survey about older voters, we can roughly assume that the splits described here apply more or less to the entire electorate.

* * * * *

Thus, I do not see a lot of difference between the electorate sketched out by this survey and that which existed in 2006, new media notwithstanding, though I would love to be proven wrong. As political researcher Derek da Cunha recently described in a recent talk, about 40 percent are reliably pro-PAP, 35 percent swing voters and 25 percent reliably anti-PAP. Of course, these are very rough estimates and will vary somewhat from constituency to constituency.

Nevertheless, this is the uphill task facing opposition parties: How to get a majority in any constituency, starting with only 25 percent solid support and only a smallish bank of swing voters. If your heart lies with them, then please offer your help. Volunteer. Donate.

18 Responses to “Election buzz a minority interest”


  1. 1 Loh 24 April 2011 at 17:48

    Damn. My heart lies with the opposition and I understand perfectly the uphill task they are facing. But I’ve never thought of volunteering to help. Until now, that is.

  2. 2 Anonymous 24 April 2011 at 18:26

    I suppose that as a gay Singaporean, I may be considered as being part of the swing vote population if I am not particularly partial to the PAP or to any opposition party.
    However, being particularly mindful of my status as a virtually second class citizen with the existence of Section 377A of the Penal Code which effectively makes me a criminal every time I make love to my boyfriend, I would be more inclined to vote for a political party like the SDP or the Reform Party which have stated that they believe in gay equality and would support the repeal of 377A.
    There are conundrums, however, as in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC where the PAP is going to be pitted against the SPP.
    Hri Kumar is representing the PAP there and he spoke strongly in support of repealing 377A during the parliamentary debate in 2007. In the SPP camp, on the other hand, is Benjamin Pwee who has teamed up with Chiam See Tong. I’ve heard that Pwee is a Christian fundamentalist and is against the repeal of 377A.
    Therefore, in such a case, I would rather vote for the PAP than the opposition party because even though overall, the PAP was not in favour of removing the anti-gay law, its candidates in this particular constituency are generally more supportive of gay equality than the opposition party’s.
    In all other cases where the PAP is being challenged by the SDP or the Reform Party, my choice would obviously be the opposition.

    • 3 Robox 25 April 2011 at 01:33

      @Anonymous:

      You could also consider spoiling your vote.

    • 4 J 25 April 2011 at 14:31

      I am in the exact same situation, and still haven’t fully decided. However, I may vote SPP, because the reason why we have this problem i.e. the GRC system, is entirely due to the PAP. Since I can’t see anyone from PAP moving to get rid of the GRC system, I do not wish to vote for any of them, and end up in the same situation next GE.

      Sad for Hri Kumar. But live by the GRC, die by the GRC…

  3. 5 Stand up and be counted 24 April 2011 at 18:28

    My heart was with SDP until now. I want VW to stand up and own his sexual orientation honestly. Then I can say I am voting for an honest guy. So far he has tried to evade the question, disappointing

    • 6 Bobby 25 April 2011 at 04:42

      How has Vincent evaded the question? VivianB has not posed him any question but instead made oblique references to some video. Vincent’s sexual orientation is irrelevant to his ability to be an MP and there is no reason why he should pro-actively announce it unless someone asks him directly.

      Furthermore, as a matter of political strategy, I think Vincent did well in challenging VivianB to say clearly what video he is talking about. Let VivianB do the dirty deed of “outing” Vincent and suffer the ensuing backlash from an electorate tired of gutter politics.

      On the other hand, if Vincent had volunteered his sexual orientation without VivianB explicitly referring to it, then VivianB could later claim that he wasn’t actually referring to that but to some other video. VivianB will then have managed to “out” Vincent without making himself seem like a bad guy.

    • 7 Robox 25 April 2011 at 06:11

      @Stand up and be counted:

      “My heart was with SDP until now. I want VW to stand up and own [up to] his sexual orientation honestly. Then I can say I am voting for an honest guy.”

      Not ONE of the candidates from ANY party, both the ruling one and opposition ones either, have stood up an owned up to THEIR sexual orientation either.

      Can we also conclude that the more-than-200-other-elections-candidates besides Vincent Wijeysinghe, are as similarly dishonest as Vincent Wijeysinghe himself, so that we should not vote for them? Why is the onus only on gay (and those perceived to be gay) candiadtes to ‘own up’ to their sexual orientation.

      Indeed, why don’t those candidates from both the ruling party as well as opposition ones own up to whether they had anal sex prior to the repeal of S377, leaving only gay men discriminated against by the law?

      Part of the reason that gay activists fought the fight for gay rights is so that nobody’s sexual orientation is an issue in their chosen profession.

      Do we want anybody’s sexual orientation to be an issue when it was NEVER an issue to begin with, except when homophobes, with their hate-filled hearts, decided that it shall be so?

  4. 8 YCK 24 April 2011 at 18:54

    By referring to the core opposition supporters as the “bedrock supporters”, you seem ro be characterizing them as knee-jerk opposition voters. Similar hints were made that the population not disappointed by walk-overs are knee-jerk PAP supporters.

    Though I believe that these unthinking voters exists and form the bulk of people voting either way, should such apathy be encouraged. It benefits no one except the upholding of the staus quo.

    Potential voters should should really think why they should support one party or the other. But there is no easy way to jolt people out of the langour. The same problem ails even “mature” democracies.

  5. 9 For or against 24 April 2011 at 21:00

    Dear anonymous,
    Quite a few MP’s spoke in favor of repealling the law in parliament. Charles Chong, LKY and LHL to name a few. WP suffers the same fate as the PAP, they could not agree whether they were for or against. I think it represents society as a whole. So I agree with your stance, depends who comes courting in my backyard.
    But I am disappointed with VW for not standing up to be counted, being outer is far worst than being honest

  6. 10 Joseph 24 April 2011 at 21:34

    It says a lot about the first past the post system that 66.6% of those who voted in 2006 voted PAP. Yet the regime accounts for 82 out of 84 seats in Parliament. The opposition should be campaigning for proportional representation.

  7. 11 charlie 24 April 2011 at 23:06

    I believe that VW is married, but that does not indicate whether or not he is gay.

    • 12 Robox 25 April 2011 at 06:15

      @charlie:

      “I believe that VW is married, but that does not indicate whether or not he is gay.”

      Yes, that is why I think EVERY SINGLE CANDIDATE in the upcoming elections, new, experienced or incumbent, and especially those who are married to an opposite sex person as well as those presumed to be hetero, should come out and declare their sexual orientations as well.

    • 13 J 25 April 2011 at 12:05

      I seem to recall Today or something describing him as a bachelor.

  8. 14 anon 24 April 2011 at 23:35

    The trouble with most Singaporeans is that they don’t come out of their homes to attend the rallies. They see, hear and read only all the good things about PAP from the TV and papers during the rally period. And mind you, the TV alone (Channel 8 for example) has a reach of 1.3 millions at the very least.

    I was at the Hougang rally in the 2006 election. I remember you had a photo of it showing the massive crowds. Great attendance but no coverage of it in the media. So the people at large had no idea how successful the rally was – in terms of the crowd numbers.

    I was utterly disappointed with the results of the last election. It was like seeing your favourite World Cup team go into the semis, only to be kicked out in the finals.

    So this year, I try not to be too hopeful. People like myself who know your site, mrbrown’s or mrwang’s are the minority. That’s the fucking sad fact!

  9. 15 twasher 25 April 2011 at 00:34

    This is completely unsurprising. For this reason, I expect that the by the time the PAP is voted out (which won’t be the case for at least the next 4-5 elections), Singapore will already be in deep economic trouble. Long-term problems that are budding now won’t be acknowledged by the PAP or its supporters until things get so bad that the reality cannot be denied, because they purposely ignore or incapacitate feedback mechanisms. They are not interested in feedback from the ‘ground’, the state-controlled media will continue to play down the bad news, and elections are manipulated to give the PAP more of a ‘mandate’ than they really have.

    Get out while you still can.

  10. 16 Optimist 25 April 2011 at 03:02

    Alex, your reading of the stats may be right, but I hope you’re just being pessimistic due to past disappointments. Since 2006, many things have happened–increases in GST, Ministers’ salaries & housing prices, Mas Selamat’s escape, flooding, YOG, over-crowding everywhere, traffic jams, minibonds…the list goes on.

    Unlike previous GEs, we have many who used to be part of the PAP establishment standing for opposition now. Isn’t that a clear sign that the tide has turned? Bear in mind that the 40/35/25 breakdown in voting is historical. There is no more social compact between PAP and the people, and though slow to realise it initially, the people have come around to that. I believe many in their 40s and 50s are hard-hit economically and will likely vote against the incumbent this time.

    Social media should be exploited by the opposition further to counter the mainstream media’s proPAPganda, and being viral, it can be very effective even within a short span of time. Just hope the opposition is able to harness this new media to the max over the next 2 weeks. I believe the percentage of votes for PAP will drop to 60 or less, which means at least 1 GRC will go to opposition, maybe even 2 or 3. Let’s hope so.

  11. 17 Roy 25 April 2011 at 12:22

    I support gay rights even though I am not gay. If people question my sexuality in public, I may not want to clarify because it really is none of their business, I don’t need to defend myself as if being gay is something to defend against. I hope this is the reason why VW is not responding immediately. Nevertheless, he may need to make a statement at some point since he is standing for public office.

  12. 18 Wei Meng 25 April 2011 at 13:15

    Alex, you mentioned that the people who said they would not be disappointed with walkovers in their wards would probably have voted PAP anyway if there were a contest. This got me thinking that perhaps there is an alternative way of looking at the two pie charts you linked to.

    Perhaps the 42% who would not be disappointed are truly those who support the PAP, whether die-hards or by default; and the 31.3% who would be disappointed are those who would vote for an opposition party if given the choice.

    The total percentage of both groups (73.3%) lines up nicely with the percentage of respondents who are keen to vote in the coming elections (73.9%). The percentage of people who are indifferent or negative towards both questions are fairly similar as well, 26.9% for walkovers and 26.2% for the chance to vote; I would speculate that these would represent the truly apathetic or apolitical groups of people.

    What this means is that perhaps there is a 40%ish support for the PAP and 30%ish support for the various opposition parties (or maybe they’re just anti-PAP…) with a 20% or so swing vote which could be activated by “hot button issues”.

    Of course all of these are just speculation… There’s no hard data I could use to support my conjecture. Could be interesting if voting turns out this way though.


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