Those who voted for the stronger opposition parties did so for three main reasons. They were (a) because they wanted to boost opposition presence in parliament, (b) because they liked what the party stood for, and (c) because they liked the candidates they had on offer.
Those who voted for the weaker opposition parties did so primarily for one reason alone: because they wanted to boost opposition presence in parliament. This shows how important it is, going forward, for the weaker parties to communicate what they stand for, and to take a hard look at the candidates they have representing them. Without getting these two other factors in place, they can’t move up.
As seen in Part 2, the stronger opposition parties had a larger base of hard support — always an asset.
Question 7 in the survey asked participants how important were six selected factors in determining their vote choice. The first factor given was the need to give the People’s Action Party a strong mandate. During the campaign, the PAP warned that more parliamentary seats for the opposition would result in blocking governmental action, raising the spectre of paralysis. How did different clusters of voters respond to this argument?
It is not surprising that those who voted for the PAP gave this factor greater weight.
As for those who voted for the various opposition parties, there’s not a lot of difference among them (except those who voted for the Reform Party, discussed below) but I thought it interesting that roughly 10 – 14 percent of them still said it was a very important consideration in their decision process. They do seem to believe that having more opposition members in parliament slows down the speediness and perhaps effectiveness of executive action.
Why does the bar for Reform Party look different? My guess is that it was skewed by the voters of Ang Mo Kio GRC, one of the two constituencies the party stood in. The PAP team in Ang Mo Kio GRC was headed by the prime minister himself, and voters likely gave more thought to the effect on the stability of the government even as they voted for the Reform Party.
Opposition parties may need to better communicate that unless the PAP is very badly mauled and loses a simple majority in parliament, it is hardly likely for government business to come to a standstill. That said, this can be tricky. There is a fine line between saying that the government will continue to function and that voting in more opposition members of parliament will make no difference at all, so why bother?
As mentioned above, the urge to increase opposition representation in the legislature was palpable across the board. Even about a quarter of those who eventually voted for the PAP rated this factor as “very important”; nearly eighty percent said it was “somewhat important”.
What this suggests — again — is that the PAP voters whom I managed to reach in this survey were not the hard-core ones, but the thinking, swing voters. Perhaps in their constituencies, the opposition offerings were just not attractive enough.
The next bar chart shows the opposition parties differentiating among themselves. Two of them — the Workers’ Party and the Singapore Democratic Party — had about half their voters saying that what the party stood for was a “very important” factor in their decision.
The party with the weakest connection with its voters in this regard was the Reform Party. It’s a bit of a paradox, because party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam is a sort of policy wonk. What the survey shows is that having ideas is not enough. Communicating them is just as important, and Jeyaretnam’s heavy reliance on the internet — and even then only sporadically — is far from enough, especially when he is not an exciting public speaker ether.
What’s worthy of mention is how strongly those who voted for the PAP felt about the importance of what the party represents. The PAP’s branding is not to be scoffed at.
The next bar chart also shows differentiation among the parties, except that the Singapore People’s Party now joins the Workers’ Party and the SDP as leaders of the pack.
We know why. Chiam See Tong was the team leader of the SPP team in the only group representation constituency they contested: Bishan-Toa Payoh. Even in the single-member constituency of Potong Pasir, many hold his wife and replacement, Lina Chiam, in high regard.
A big unknown is whether the SDP’s high score in this respect is due to more to Tan Jee Say or Vincent Wijeysingha. Tan brought credentials, including a stint as then-deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s principal private secretary, but was otherwise a bit of a salesman on the rally stage, touting his economic plan without pause. Wijeysingha, on the other hand, was impressive as a public orator but without much by way of career track record. What do readers think?
As for the Workers’ Party, I’m pretty sure the voters of Aljunied would have held the party’s candidates in even higher regard than the bar shows. This is because the bar also reflects the input from voters in other constituencies who voted for the Workers’ Party, but who were not presented with the party’s “A-term”.
Every election since the mid-nineties, the PAP has been threatening voters with economic loss should they return an opposition member of parliament for their constituency. Question 7(e) tries to measure how important this factor is, at least among the demographic — the relatively young and internet-savvy — this online survey reached.
As you can see , this remains a “somewhat important” concern for up to 20 percent of those who voted for the opposition. It is probably higher in the general population, as hinted at by the bar representing PAP voters. What this survey finding indicates is the need for opposition parties to deal with this fear among (some) voters head-on, but from what I can see, they have yet to find a reply. They shouldn’t be afraid of the facts, which may in fact help them. For example, see the data compiled by Bernard Leong and his Singapore Angle mates in the article Hougang constituency 4-room flats retain value well.
The other significant fear factor is that the vote is not secret. I saw the Workers’ Party and the Singapore Democratic Party talk about this in their rallies.
Like the question on upgrading and asset value, those who eventually voted for the PAP gave more consideration to this factor, but even among those who voted for opposition parties, there is a residual segment who continue to worry about this. We will need to keep addressing this issue for a few more elections yet.
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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?