Cost of living was No.1 factor for Punggol East vote swing: survey

Shah Salimat

Nearly 4 in 10 voters who cast their ballot at the recent Punggol East by-election said the cost of living was the top reason that determined their choice, says a new survey.

Conducted by independent local agency Blackbox Research, the survey also found the second most important reason for vote swing was attributed to “the government not listening to ordinary Singaporeans”.

Some 21 per cent swing voters aged under 40 identified this as the top factor in deciding their vote.

Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian won the recent by-election by a landslide 54.5 per cent of the vote, beating her opponent Koh Poh Koon from the ruling People’s Action Party by a 10.8 per cent margin.

Lee’s vote increased by some 13 per cent from the 2011 general elections, when she previously contested in the same ward, losing out to PAP's candidate then, Michael Palmer.

Conducted over a three-day period last week, the phone survey interviewed 150 Punggol East residents  who said they had switched votes in between the recent by-election and the 2011 General Election.

Commenting on the findings, Blackbox managing director David Black said, “It’s clear that younger voters in Punggol East felt emboldened and don’t believe they will lose out by opting against the status quo".

"As the Chinese saying goes, ‘their wings have hardened’ and if this phenomenon is repeated elsewhere, it could represent a real challenge for the Government in the run-up to the next General Election," he said.

Punggol East is largely made up of a young, middle-class electorate. Approximately 1 in 4  Punggol East residents are aged between 22 to 35.

No disadvantage in having opposition MP: survey

Other key reasons for the vote swing included housing affordability and public transport issues.

While education and childcare were important factors for voters aged under 40, a “stronger opposition presence in Parliament” was an important factor for women – four times a more likely reason than that of men.

Young voters were also far more receptive to having an opposition member of Parliament represent their ward.

73 per cent of voters under 40 felt so, as opposed to 48 per cent of voters above 40.

When the survey measured the impact of the by-election’s catalyst as a vote changer, results showed that Michael Palmer’s resignation as a factor only accounted for 1 per cent of the vote swing.