“90% of those polled say they will vote for opposition”. That’s the kind of sensational headline that will grab the attention of the reader. That’s what my unrepresentative poll results indicate. Hopefully, you have, by now, picked yourself up after falling off your chair.
I had carried out an online poll that attracted 135 persons to vote. It is a small sample and hardly indicative of the actual voting pattern in the country. My readers are, quite obviously, largely opposition voters. So, the 90% vote in favour of the opposition is indicative of the profile of my readers rather than being indicative of how Singaporeans are likely to vote. From the outset, I had no intention to find out about the level of support for PAP. My little survey was motivated by a recent research finding released by Blackbox Research that indicated that 80% of Singaporeans felt that PAP would either perform better or the same as the last elections if elections are to be held now. Blackbox went on to conclude that “the PAP are now in the box seat to improve on their 2011 election result”.
I was a little skeptical about the conclusion. My gut instinct is that there is a general perception right now that either PAP will perform better or the same as the last elections and this perception is largely a result of pessimism among individuals that would themselves vote for the opposition anyway. Poll results that indicate that there is a perception as to how PAP will perform are not at all indicative of how those that were polled would themselves vote. So, Blackbox Research’s findings are neither here nor there. My conversations with friends (who are largely opposition voters) after the passing of LKY has provided me with anecdotal evidence that there is a high degree of pessimism in the opposition camp. Three factors loom large in the assessment of many opposition voters:
1. LKY’s death and the propaganda overdose following that
2. SG50 celebrations and the feel good factor that is likely to be generated (with taxpayers footing the bill)
3. WP’s continuing legal troubles with Town Council management.
It stands to reason that middle ground voters may veer back to the PAP (as it happened in 1997) or there may be a stalemate and we may not see any change between 2011 and 2015 in terms of the popular vote.
Given the negative sentiments among opposition voters, it is quite inevitable that Blackbox Research’s findings indicate a low 20% stating that they thought PAP will perform worse than in 2011. My view is that their research should not be interpreted to indicate that there will in fact be a vote swing towards the PAP. Blackbox didn’t ask the crucial question: “Who would you vote for?”
If that question had been asked, we might have ended up with a result that indicates 35% to 40% stating that they would vote opposition and nevertheless 80% stating that PAP would perform better or the same. The other problem with the Blackbox findings is that they don’t indicate the percentage that stated that PAP would perform better and those that stated that it would perform the same.
My poll was done to show that there exists a deviation among opposition voters. There are a significant number of opposition voters that would vote for opposition but are nevertheless pessimistic about the general outcome in the current elections. Among the 135 that voted, 90% would have voted for the opposition but only 66% felt that PAP would do worse. This strongly attests to the fact that even in my small sample of 122 opposition voters, there must have been a significant percentage that were pessimistic about the opposition’s chances in the coming elections.
There is a percentage deviation of 23% between the actual votes by opposition voters and the perception of improvement in the opposition performance. In the course of the two weeks that I kept the poll open, at various stages of voting I saw this voting-perception deviation fluctuate from a low of 15% to a high of 25%. For the most part, the percentage was hovering between 20% to 25%.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the findings of Blackbox Research are somewhat tainted by the fact that there exists this voting-perception deviation. I suspect that it does exist at a national level. So, whilst my small sample yielded a 23% deviation, at the national level this figure is bound to be different (higher or lower) but without data, it is impossible to arrive at any conclusion. Blackbox didn’t ask the crucial question as to which party would those polled vote for. All we have is a finding that indicates that only 20% think that PAP will do worse. This does not mean that only 20% will vote for the opposition. It indicates, merely, the existence of a certain degree of pessimism among those that would vote for the opposition. It is not inconceivable that we might have had 40% of those polled intending to vote for the opposition with a large number of them feeling that PAP will perform the same or better (thereby contributing to the statistics provided by Blackbox).
Another problem with the Blackbox Research findings is that they have conveniently failed to indicate the percentage of those that think that there will be no difference in the voting and those that think that PAP will do better. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual figures were along the following lines (speculating, of course):
50% – PAP will perform better
30% – PAP will perform the same
20% – PAP will perform worse
We don’t know why Blackbox chose not to give a breakdown of the ‘better’ and ‘same’ categories.
For Blackbox to make the assertion that PAP is in the box seat to improve on its performance in 2011 is a rather bold step. Another research firm, BMI Research, whilst being generally positive on the outlook for the PAP, did not venture to assert that the vote share will improve. “While it is difficult to ascertain whether or not the PAP’s vote share will fall again in the upcoming election, the party’s ability to form a strong majority in the parliament is virtually assured,” Personally, I think that a general election this year is not going to threaten PAP’s majority in Parliament. The only thing that we are really speculating about is the increase or decrease in their vote share.
For those in the opposition camp that feel a little despondent after reading the Blackbox report, they should brush aside polls like these as they serve only to measure voter perception rather than how those voters would in fact vote. There is bound to be a deviation between the two. For those in the PAP camp, they would be well advised to avoid being too complacent. Don’t underestimate the actual anger and dissatisfaction on the ground.