IPS post-election survey: finer points you might have missed
Broad consensus on importance of elected opposition, middle-aged swing against PAP, and CNA vs ST
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Among the election analyses in Singapore, the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) post-election survey, which was released last week, sets itself apart from the usual punditry and op-eds by providing high quality data about the state of mind of Singaporeans when they cast their votes at the July 10 polls.
The survey’s transparency in its methodology is assuring for those who want to discern its reliability, and you can check out the full presentation here and the executive summary here.
Given the extensive coverage by the media, I’m going to take a crack at making five observations that I felt did not get the attention they deserved.
1) Even conservatives see the need to have elected opposition
This is the most interesting finding to me.
Source: Slide 93
Although this year’s score for the conservatives is the lowest since 2020, it’s still above 3. Since scores are on a scale of 1-5, this means that even those with conservative views lean towards agreeing that it is important to have elected opposition Members of Parliament.
This is telling and probably the reason why the Non-Constituency MP scheme has never truly worked in convincing Singaporeans that there is no need for an elected opposition parliamentary presence. If even the conservatives tend to agree about the importance of an elected opposition, it’s logical to conclude that not many see NCMPs as a true replacement of elected opposition MPs.
By the way, does this make conservative voters who want an elected opposition free riders?
Takeaway: From a purely political perspective, it was never clear that the NCMP scheme was effective in lowering the vote share of the opposition.
2) It’s not just the young souring on PAP
Young voters are reflexively ascribed as a prominent cause whenever voting results don’t go the way of the People’s Action Party. But the following charts show that the young shouldn’t get all the credit/blame.
Source: Slide 35
While the PAP suffered a drop in perception of their credibility across all age groups, the fall was most pronounced among those in their 40s. The oldest millennials are just turning 40, so we can’t pin this on them. To the PAP’s credit, it has acknowledged its loss of support among the middle-aged.
Similarly, if we look at the WP’s credibility ratings below:
Source: Slide 36
The WP enjoyed a growth in their credibility across the board, but the biggest gain came from those aged 65 and above.
Takeaway: When it comes to elections, it’s not always about “young people these days”.
3) Is CNA that much more popular than The Straits Times?
Respondents who said the internet was “important” or “very important” in shaping their voting decision were asked to name up to three specific platforms that were crucial for them. As you can see, CNA beat The Straits Times by more than 10 percentage points.
Source: Slide 27
But this slide raises more questions than answers for me. All of CNA’s platforms are taken into account, including the website, Facebook, and presumably other social media accounts of the outlet.
However, for ST, it seems like only the website was counted.
Why the difference in treatment? Was it a case of respondents being able to remember readings news from CNA’s social media accounts but not ST’s? Yes, CNA’s Facebook page has three million likes and is twice as popular as ST’s, but it still seems unlikely to me that not a single respondent named ST’s social media accounts.
And for those who named Facebook as a platform they got information from, were they asked a follow-up question as to which account specifically on Facebook they were referring to? If so, it’s also strange to group those who cited CNA’s Facebook page under “CNA platforms” but not do the same for ST.
Takeaway: ST should find out more about how this result was formulated before pressing the panic button.
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4) For the opposition, it’s really, truly WP and then the rest
This is yet another reminder that the Workers’ Party has managed to set itself well apart from the other opposition parties.
Source: Slide 32. Scores are on a scale of 1 to 5.
The WP’s score of 3.9 is closer to the ruling party’s 4.1 than it is to the 3.5 of the Progress Singapore Party, the next most credible opposition party.
Since the 2011 election, the WP has gradually distanced itself from the notion of “opposition unity”, seeing itself as a cut above the rest. As the only opposition party with elected MPs, it’s clear the public agrees.
Takeaway: Instead of opposition unity, it’s time for the WP to say it is prepared to coordinate with its parliamentary opposition colleagues (given that there are only two other non-WP opposition MPs, who are not elected, this shouldn’t be difficult to follow through with).
5) SDP’s rehabilitation continues
Once the leading opposition party with three elected MPs, the Singapore Democratic Party has not had a parliamentary presence since 1997. Its reputation took a beating after infighting within its ranks, but has gradually improved in the last decade after it shed the civil disobedience tactics that some found too confrontational for their tastes.
Source: Slide 34
In particular, the percentage of respondents who agree or strongly agree that SDP is a credible party spiked between 2011 and 2015 (all the more significant since 2015 was the year the PAP got a 9 percentage jump in its national vote share).
In 2020, the SDP largely maintained its favourable ratings and decreased the percentage of respondents who disagreed that it was a credible party. This was reflected in its GE 2020 performance as well. Its leader, Chee Soon Juan, who had never cracked 40 per cent in his past five electoral outings, scored 45.2 per cent this year.
Takeaway: The path of moderation has reaped some rewards for SDP. Now to carefully consider if it’s enough to take the party back into parliament.
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