Survey: Declining euphoria but Dr M highly popular among civil servants, all races

Ida Lim

Merdeka Center said that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is enjoying popularity as prime minister among an overwhelming majority of civil servants and also across all ethnic groups. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is enjoying popularity as prime minister among an overwhelming majority of civil servants and also across all ethnic groups, a survey has shown.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center said its survey earlier this month, taken near the end of Pakatan Harapan’s first 100 days in power, showed that 71 per cent of 1,160 voters polled felt “satisfied” towards Dr Mahathir’s performance as PM.

“The prime minister obtained positive responses from 93 per cent ethnic Indians, 83 per cent ethnic Chinese, 75 per cent non-Muslim Bumiputeras, 64 per cent Muslim Bumiputeras, and 62 per cent Malay voters nationwide.

“It should be noted that he also gained high approval from among civil servants at 81 per cent, and voters under 40 years old at about 73 per cent,” Merdeka Center said in its press release today of its poll conducted from August 7 to August 14.

This Friday will be the 100th day the PH coalition came into power, and also the 100th day of Dr Mahathir’s return as prime minister after a previous 22-year rule from 1981 to 2003.

In Merdeka Center’s monthly tracking of Dr Mahathir’s approval ratings since the May 9 general election, the overall proportion of respondents feeling satisfied was recorded at 83 per cent at the end of May, before declining to 73 per cent in June, climbing up to 79 per cent in July and again falling to 71 per cent this month.

Dr Mahathir enjoys the highest ratings from the non-Malays, particularly among Indian voters, with 93 per cent satisfied with his performance in three out of four months and only dipping to 90 per cent for July.

Among the Chinese voters surveyed, 90 per cent were satisfied in May, with a slight decline to 88 per cent in June and inching up to 91 per cent in July, and dropping to 83 per cent this month.

For the Malay voters polled, it started off high with 78 per cent satisfied in May with Dr Mahathir’s performance as prime minister, before falling to 61 per cent in June and going up to 70 per cent in July, before falling to 62 per cent this month.

Performance of PH-led federal government

Merdeka Center also said two-thirds of the voters polled as a whole gave the PH federal government positive ratings, basing this on survey results, with support shown by 58 per cent Malay voters, 62 per cent Bumiputera voters from Sabah and Sarawak, 79 per cent ethnic Chinese voters, and 89 per cent ethnic Indian voters.

According to Merdeka Center’s survey, a slightly downward trend can be seen with 79 per cent of Malaysians polled “happy” with the federal government as of May 31, before falling to 72 per cent as of July 19, and further declining to 67 per cent as of August 11.

The same downward trend was reflected among Chinese and Malay respondents polled, while the Indian voters polled bucked the trend with those happy with the federal government growing marginally from 87 per cent (May) to 88 per cent (July) to 89 per cent (August).

“The present numbers show a slight decline from the onset of the formation of the new government, indicating dissipating euphoria and the natural friction as expectations encounter reality.

“Nonetheless, the present positive numbers underpin the general satisfaction expressed by voters on the performance of the new government on a number of issues since taking power in May 2018,” said Merdeka Center, which has been carrying out surveys both before and after the May 9 elections and tracking public approval ratings since late May 2018.

Some of the positive indicators highlighted by Merdeka Center include an increase from 38 per cent (April) to 55 per cent (August) of voters polled believing that the country is heading in the right direction.

A comparison of the same pre-election month of April and post-election month of August showed that the proportion of voters expressing satisfaction in how the government is managing the economy has almost doubled from 34 per cent to 60 per cent, while 31 per cent similarly grew to 56 per cent when it comes to optimism of the Malaysian economy’s prospects.

Merdeka Center noted that 56 per cent of voters surveyed were currently satisfied with the PH government’s overall performance in fulfilling their election promises to date.

“82 per cent were satisfied with the results of the 14th general election — this also included voters who chose other parties,” it said when commenting on survey results.

Generally high satisfaction could be seen for topics such as efforts to reform government institutions (72 per cent), measures to improve inter-ethnic harmony (69 per cent) and anti-corruption measures (65 per cent), the survey showed.

“Only 48 per cent was satisfied with government on how it intends to grow the economy; while only 41 per cent were satisfied with measures to address cost of living pressures while 55 per cent were dissatisfied,” the pollster added.

What’s next

“In our opinion, the survey results show a PH government that has won over a majority of the electorate despite coming in at less than 50 per cent popular vote on election day,” Merdeka Center said, adding that this comes on the back of PH’s promised reform agenda and voters dissatisfaction towards the previous administration.

“A majority of voters appear satisfied with the new government’s intent to reform and appear to accept that some promises could not be delivered within the first 100 days,” it added.

Merdeka Center concluded that the PH government faces the future challenges of “managing heightened public expectations, an opposition that is galvanising rhetoric on race and religion, and managing coalition politics”.

Noting that the survey results suggest Malay voters being “more cautious” than the rest, Merdeka Center went on to say that the new PH government would need to ramp up efforts at addressing living costs issues and substantially reform delivery of government services in order to win over sceptics beyond the first 100 days.