First-time voters a toss-up for Election 2013, survey shows
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — First-time voters are largely educated working adults aged below 40 who are finding it tough dealing with rising living costs but half of them have made up their mind on whom to vote in Election 2013, according to the latest opinion poll findings released by the Merdeka Center.
The “First-Time Voters Public Opinion Survey”, conducted between last November and December, also showed more than half of new voters admitting to be political cynics but that two-thirds feel Putrajaya listens to the people in between elections, suggesting the demographic is a toss-up between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
“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 Center said in its executive summary report.
The independent research house had polled 826 newly-registered voters in Peninsular Malaysia aged 21 and above who will be casting their ballot for the first time in the next few months.
Pundits and opposition politicians have been confident that PR will take the lion’s share of new votes but survey findings suggest a closer fight than anticipated.
Merdeka Center’s findings, made available to The Malaysian Insider yesterday, showed the majority of first-time voters in the peninsula fall into the middle-income or higher group, but that three out of five respondents draw less than RM3,000 a month per household, marking them as living on the edge of the urban poverty line.
The survey found nearly 90 per cent are below the age of 40, which incidentally also marks the cut-off age for membership into the youth wing of all political parties, except for the opposition PKR, which is capped at 35 years old.
More than half of respondents have at least a diploma.
About half work in the private sector. Only 15 per cent are civil servants or are employed by government-linked companies; with the remaining 34 per cent comprising students, housewives, or retirees.
The survey also found that while mainstream media, especially television programmes, remained the main information source, more than half of respondents had turned to the Internet for their news feed, and that seven out of 10 were Facebook users.
Three-quarters of respondents also said they were willing to share information on politics.
“Social media sites especially Facebook have emerged as one of the most important platforms for information sharing as 71 per cent of the voters are Facebook users, most of whom access the site several times daily,” Merdeka Center observed.
“Unlike older voters who were generally more positive for the status quo, new voters’ mood appeared split between preferring the status quo and seeking change,” the pollster said.
The survey also 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 many are able to make their decisions alone.
First-time voters, who make up a significant 30 per cent of the total 13 million voter population, are seen to be the kingmakers in the 13th general election.
Both the ruling BN and the DAP-PKR-PAS opposition pact have mounted a charm offensive targeting the demographic young voters in the run-up to polls that must be called by April when the BN’s mandate expires.
Opposition parties made significant gains at the 12th general election, and now control 82 out of 222 seats in Parliament, besides taking hold of three key states along the west coast of the peninsula — Selangor, Penang and Kedah — while maintaining Kelantan for the past 22 years.