Half of Malaysians unsure about nation’s future — survey

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 29, 2019.
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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are a worried lot due to concerns about the cost of living, jobs, the economy and security issues, a new survey on the country’s direction and the people’s living conditions shows.

The country-wide opinion poll by EMIR Research aims to reflect the pulse of the nation on three core issues, the policy institute said.

To gauge what worries the nation, the think tank said, it polled the people on three core issues:

• Whether the country’s future is on the right track;

• Whether the ruling coalition is a viable government; and

• Whether the economy is on a strong footing.

The survey results paint a sobering picture of the people’s mood.

“Exactly 50% of Malaysians are unsure whether the country’s future is on the right track,” the institute said. Added to the 24% who strongly believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction, the outlook for the government is clearly worrisome.

Respondents were also similarly uncertain or pessimistic about whether the Pakatan Harapan government is viable, and whether the economy is on a strong footing.

“This is in contrast to the past when a great majority of Malaysians were backing the Pakatan opposition coalition in the 2018 elections that led to a change of government,” the policy institute said.

A significantly larger proportion of rural respondents are unhappy with the state of the nation compared to their urban peers, the survey shows.

Only 15% of rural folk think the current government is viable, compared with 28% of urban people who think so. On the other hand, 40% of rural dwellers say the Pakatan government is not viable, while 27% of urban respondents answered likewise.

Pessimism about living conditions is also strong among a majority of the people. While 37% say that living conditions are better today than two years ago, and will be so for the future, 19% say they are not doing as well and a sizeable 44% responded that there is no difference in their living conditions.

“What’s more telling is that these 44% don’t even think there will be improvement in their living condition in the future,” the institute said.

The issues that keep the people awake at night, says the pollster, cover a broad range of concerns, including cost of basic needs, lack of job opportunities, corruption and abuse of power, and the cost of public health services (see chart).

Based on the survey findings, which were used to develop its National Worry Index (NWI), Malaysians are in a state of maximum worry, the think tank said.

The index measures the degree to which Malaysians are worried over four factors — living costs, economics, jobs and security. A score of zero indicates minimum worry and a score of 1 means maximum worry).

To be in a state of maximum worry, the NWI has to reach 0.75 points and above. Respondents’ views produced a score of 0.77.

The poll showed that the cost of living was the source of most worry for Malaysians surveyed — notching a score of 0.81.

Second in line is concern over jobs, which stood at 0.78 point. In third place were anxieties over security (0.77) followed by economic issues (0.74).

Malay and bumiputera respondents were the most worried, posting a score of 0.8 point. Chinese respondents were slightly less worried at 0.73, while Indian respondents were the least worried at 0.71.

Younger persons were more anxious than the older folk, the survey showed. Those aged below 31 were the most worried, posting a score of 0.8, while those aged 41 to 50 were the least worried, with a score of 0.74.

Some 1,992 people participated in the NWI, which is based on results from EMIR’s inaugural poll conducted from Sept 5 to Oct 10. The institute aims to conduct the poll every quarter.