The majority of voters who voted for opposition parties in the recent general election actually decided to do so quite early in the campaign; nearly half of them even before Nomination Day.
Soon after that, about 60-70 percent would have decided.
This is one slice of data coming out of an online survey conducted by Yawning Bread over the Polling Day weekend. An overview of the survey and overall responses can be seen in Part 1.
The parties with stronger branding, i.e. the Workers’ Party and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as well as the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), led by one of Singaporeans’ favourite politicians Chiam See Tong, had very few voters deciding at the last minute — generally only 5 percent.
There are differences among the opposition parties, but they seem quite subtle. However, these differences show up more clearly in the answers to Question 6.
The great majority of voters who voted for an opposition party had no doubt about their decision to do so. But there is a distinct pattern. Those voting for the Workers’ Party, SDP and SPP had noticeably greater certainty than those who voted for the other parties, especially if one takes into account the “no answers”. After all, if one were certain about one’s decision, it would be easier to respond to the survey accordingly; a higher percentage of “no answers” therefore suggests some difficulty in making the decision.
Nonetheless, the overall picture is that what voter support opposition parties get tend to be hard support, not the hesitant, wavering sort. This might sound like an asset, but at the same time, it may suggest a weakness: a poor conversion rate of swing voters to their side. Swing voters are by definition soft support, characterised by relatively late decisions and some doubt along the way.
That the graphs above do not show all that much soft support suggests insufficient numbers of swing voters coming over.
Of course, it’s great if a party’s hard support is so numerous that it alone can carry it to victory. In fact, that was/is the situation enjoyed by the People’s Action Party (PAP), to the extent that it might have been the reason why its communication skills atrophied. But the election results clearly show that, Hougang and Aljunied excepted, no opposition party anywhere has hard support of such numbers that victory is within grasp. There is a need to win over swing voters.
How much hard support is there?
To get some estimate of this, I cross-referenced to another set of data, namely the vote shares of each opposition party in the constituencies that it contested in May 2011.
Take the Workers’ Party. It received 46.7 percent of the votes in the areas it contested. Of these, we know (from the top bar chart) that 70.8 percent of them decided to vote for the Workers’ Party very soon after Nomination Day. Such early deciders we can consider as hard support or the party’s “reliable support base”. 70.8 percent of 46.7 percent gives us 33.1 percent.
That is to say: the estimate is that about 33.1 percent of the total electorate can be relied upon to give their vote to the Workers’ Party if they have a chance to. This is quite encouraging, for in my opinion, bedrock support of 33 – 35 percent should be sufficient as a launch-pad for electoral victory provided a party has the skill sets to win over swing voters.
Other opposition parties had lower vote-shares at the election, and also slightly lower percentages of early deciders. Using the same calculation method, we see that the bedrock support level that the Reform Party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance can rely on is just 19 percent.
You will notice that I made a calculation for the PAP as well. However, since I consider the raw data for the PAP to be very iffy, I wouldn’t put much store on the figure I obtained — 22.7 percent. The older generation with many strong supporters of the PAP were not among the survey participants in any meaningful number. Actually, I have the feeling that most of the survey participants who reported voting for the PAP were not die-hard PAP supporters anyway; they were swing voters, who this time decided to give their vote to the PAP after some careful consideration. That probably accounts for the fact that in the top chart, so many were late-deciders.
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Analysis of the survey results comes in several parts.
Part 4: How important were selected sources of information in determining vote choice?
Part 5: What about Tanjong Pagar GRC?