ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
New M'sian voters' choice too close to call
Publication Date : 20-01-2013
Malaysia will have another 3.1 million new voters by the next general election, and it is anyone's guess how they will vote.
A survey of newly registered voters by the Merdeka Centre showed that more than half of those polled admitted to being political cynics. But two-thirds of participants also felt the government had paid attention to their needs, suggesting a toss-up of votes between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
"Although cynical about government and politics, (the) majority still feel the government listens to the public, signifying the close competition in the post-2008 political situation," Merdeka Centre said in a survey privately commissioned by an unidentified client. The survey results were obtained by the Malaysian Insider yesterday.
Merdeka Centre had polled 826 first-time voters in Peninsular Malaysia between November and December last year. Three out of five respondents earn less than 3,000 ringgit (US$995.68) a month per household and 90 per cent are below 40 years old.
The independent research house has done various surveys on national issues as well as approval ratings of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Slightly less than one in four of Malaysia's 13 million voters will cast his vote for the first time in the next election.
Both BN and the opposition have been going all out to reach out to these new voters, seen as a decisive factor for the outcome of the election, which has to be called by April 28.
Ibrahim Suffian, programme director of the Merdeka Centre, said the sheer size of first-time voters is a force to be reckoned with.
Nevertheless, he noted that just because many are eligible to vote for the first time, it does not mean they will.
"Young voter turnout is typically lower than the national average and they tend to be less fervent in their political inclination," he told The Straits Times.
In the last leg of election preparations, both the BN government and the opposition are intensifying efforts to win these new voters' hearts by going to the ground to meet them, with the BN sending voters letters appealing for support signed by Najib as well.
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the youth wing has been told to reach out to the grassroots. "Umno Youth machinery must ensure that all voters, especially the new ones, will cast their votes on the polling day."
Meanwhile, the opposition is also wooing new support with promises of free higher education and lower taxes and duties on cars.
Merdeka Centre found new voters were unlikely to be swayed by the political opinions of those within their immediate circle—friends, neighbours and relatives—or politicians, suggesting that many are able to make their decisions alone.
However, the polling house also noted that new voters appeared split between those preferring the status quo and those seeking change, unlike older voters, who are generally more inclined towards the status quo.
"The votes could go either way," Suffian said. "First-time voters are not a done deal for BN or Pakatan Rakyat."