Pollster: Complaints about haze online mostly from Malaysians, while Indonesians, Singaporeans couldn’t care less

A motorist wears a mask as he travels past the Petronas Twin Towers shrouded in haze in Kuala Lumpur September 12, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A motorist wears a mask as he travels past the Petronas Twin Towers shrouded in haze in Kuala Lumpur September 12, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Malaysians made up the bulk of those who expressed their concerns online about the recurring transboundary haze problem in the region, contributing around nine out of 10 of the total conversations, a study has showed.

Global pollsters Ipsos said the study, conducted among Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians, also showed that 78 per cent of the Malaysian respondents were very concerned about the air quality in their locality.

“On the social media space, Malaysia accounts for the largest social media share of voice, at 87 per cent, regarding the haze crisis as many are appalled by the severity of the situation.

“A total of 98,900 haze social media conversations were captured in Malaysia, with netizens creating a huge buzz online on the haze condition in the country,” Ipsos said in a statement.

In contrast, Singapore and Indonesia recorded “very low” share of voices, making up just 7 and 6 per cent of the conversations (7,300 and 6,800 respectively), it said.

“The lack of outcry in Singapore and Indonesia over slow poisoning by the haze is disappointing,” Ipsos said.

The report published today, however, did not provide the study’s methodology.

It also pointed out the main topics in social media discussions over haze were about its health and education impact.

“Respiratory tract infection, such as asthma, is observed to be the key medical issue which many social media discussions have raised concerns about.

“More than 80 per cent of health-related conversations are about respiratory tract infections and breathing problems, whereas less than 20 per cent of total conversations are about eye infection and headache/migraine,” Ipsos said.

Of the survey’s Malaysian participants, 57 per cent had reported throat irritation, 55 per cent reported eye infection, 51 per cent reported coughing as well as nose irritation and 38 per cent reported headaches.

The survey also indicated that concrete steps are being taken by citizens and their families to protect themselves from the severe haze.

“While 88 per cent Malaysians are drinking more water than usual, 84 per cent prefer to stay indoors when not at work/school.

“79 per cent of the Malaysians polled (among those who have children) are keeping the children inside to keep them protected from the haze,” it said.

As for educational impact, working parents are especially worried about the school closures affecting routine life and work-schedules.

“Students were also worried that their learning progression will be delayed, while employees showcased uneasiness by the inconvenience caused by haze, and some displeased by the absence of a clear employment policy regarding the issue.

“The top three control measures which garnered highest social media public reactions were school closure, employee welfare and cloud seeding. But social media users felt these quick fixes were implemented in a very haphazard manner,” Ipsos said.

Only 25 per cent of survey participants feel that the government has been dealing effectively with the haze issue, in part due to the perceived lack of preparedness in managing the haze crisis and absence of concrete measures to prevent recurrences.

“Overall 84 per cent of Malaysians feel the Indonesian authorities carry the biggest responsibility of dealing with the haze problem, with 75 per cent feeling the owners of the lands where the fire happens should also be responsible.

“They believe in the long-term measures will be effective, where 80 per cent of the respondents felt legally pursuing companies involved in the crisis, and 74 per cent believe cross-national policies or putting pressure on the Indonesian government,” it said.

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