• PROJECT INTRODUCTION

    In the last fifty years, Singapore's political landscape has evolved significantly. The increasing diversity of social and political actors has contributed to more vibrant community discourse on many issues that matter to Singaporeans. Research by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Blackbox Research and other organisations have raised new lines of inquiry on how Singaporeans view key issues such as meritocracy, social mobility and social safety nets.
     

    To this end, Quad Research designed a set of survey questions to measure Singaporeans' perceptions on the issues that matter to them and how this affects their political choices. All questions were benchmarked to international polls. The survey was conducted between 5th to 17th August.

     

    We used online, self-administered online surveys to poll a representative sample of 1378 Singapore citizens aged 21 and above. The sample was weighted for age, race and gender to reflect the demographic composition of Singapore’s citizen population based on the 2010 Census.

     

    We hope that this project will reflect to Singaporeans how their perceptions evolve and how these perceptions influence their political choices. We believe that answering these questions is beneficial to Singapore as it enables better decisions as a community.

  • Key Findings

    Between 5th and 17th August 2015, Quad Research conducted a survey on the upcoming General Elections to measure Singaporeans' perceptions on the issues that matter to them and how this affects their political choices. The key findings from our research are as follows:

    Pre-election polling showed strong correlation with actual vote share

    "If the election was called today, which party would you vote for?"

    Our findings suggest that online polling can be a reliable methodology in predicting electoral trends in Singapore

     

    Our nationally-representative online poll reflected the PAP vote share of the 2015 Singapore General Elections (GE2015) accurately. Our survey findings suggested that PAP vote share would be 70.0%, with a 2.6% margin of error, if the elections were held in early August. The actual PAP vote share of GE2015, one month later, was 69.9%.

     

    Our results suggest that pre-election online polling in Singapore, controlling for age, race, and gender, can be a reliable methodology that can yield useful insights into electoral trends. With 88% of Singapore households having access to the Internet (Infocomm Development Authority, 2014), the high level of access support the fact that online surveys can be a good gauge of median voter sentiment. Furthermore, self-administered online surveys have been proven to be better than traditional phone surveys at eliciting honest self-disclosure from respondents for sensitive topics such as community beliefs and political figures. (Pew Research, 2015).

     

    Political observers were generally unable to pick up on the magnitude of the 2015 General Election vote swing before the election

    The Straits Times termed the results at GE2015 a "surprise big swing in vote share to PAP". Political candidates, citing "poor bookie odds", were caught by surprise at the magnitude of their win. Political analysts had predicted that the Workers' Party would pick up support, and even that the PAP vote share would fall to an average of 56.5%.

     

    To our knowledge, many of these predictions were based on small samples or general observations. Individuals often find it difficult to accurately perceive national sentiment due to self-selection of social media consumption, social media algorithmic filtering of dissenting views, political polarisation of media habits and the unwillingness of people to speak publicly or on social media about policy issues when they believe that their own point of view is not widely shared.

     

    Blackbox Research, a local polling agency, identified improving popular support for Government starting from May 2014. Reports on national sentiment are available for April, May and July 2015. In post-GE coverage, they reiterated that they had observed increased support for the PAP but did not anticipate the magnitude of the vote swing.

     

    Our sampling methodology and research design yielded an accurate prediction of the prevailing electoral trend of a large vote swing towards the People's Action Party.

     

    Voting choices did not change significantly during the course of the campaigning period

     

    The results from our poll were close to the national average for PAP vote share, even though our poll was conducted before the writ of election was issued and before the campaigning period started.

     

    Future research could test these possible factors, which are neither mutually exclusive nor comprehensive

    1. Many voters had made up their mind in advance, and that events that took place during the campaigning period did not significantly affect overall citizens' voting choices (Minimal Effects Model).

    2. Campaigning is impactful, however the briefer length of the campaigning period and differences in format as compared to other countries (Bloomberg, 2015) limited the impact of campaigning.

     

    Voting preferences for opposition parties differed from actual votes due to constituency limitations

     

    Although our findings on the PAP vote share mirrored the national vote share, our data on opposition voting patterns differed significantly from the General Election results. This is due to the fact that we presented voters with a list of parties to choose from and asked them to indicate their top choice, regardless of constituency. Therefore, our results reflect voters' top party preferences (based on the list of parties contesting in GE2011) but does not take into account constituency limitations, such as the fact that opposition voters would not have been able to vote for their preferred opposition party if it did not contest in their constituency.

     

    Opposition supporters might be likely to vote for other opposition parties if their preferred party was absent

     

    Our data suggests that opposition parties might be relatively substitutable with each other. In particular, the votes of Workers' Party supporters in constituencies where the WP did not contest could have gone to other opposition parties, rather than to the PAP, thereby contributing to the vote share of the other opposition parties. While 21.5% of voters listed the Workers' Party as their top choice, only 12.5% of them actually ended up voting for the Workers' Party at GE2015, while the actual vote share of most of the other opposition parties was higher than predicted.

     

    Our poll does not take into account the emergence of new parties and independents since GE2011 or the redrawing of electoral boundaries that impacted 19% of voters (Straits Times, 2015). Nor does the poll factor in the number of people who did not vote or who spoilt their votes.

     

    Future research could include these options, and perhaps also allow voters to rank their party preferences to get a better sense of voters' orders of preferences among the different parties. This would allow us to quantify how substitutable different political parties are with each other.

    Singaporeans vote for the best local candidate, party values they trust and a more competent government

    "Here are some reasons people have given for deciding on the party they vote for. Which are the most important in your decision? Please rank them in descending priority from 1 to 7. (For example, put 1 for the most important reason, and 7 for the least important reason.)

     

    a. I would vote for who I thought was the best candidate locally regardless of their party
    b. I trust the motives and values of that party more than those of other parties
    c. I think the senior members of the party I chose would make a more competent government
    d. I have always voted for that party
    e. I think the leader of the party I chose would make the best prime minister
    f. I prefer the promises made by the party I voted for more than the promises of the other parties
    g. I would vote to register my discontent with another party"

    Most Singapore voters chose to vote for the best local candidate, the party they trusted most and the party they believed would form the most competent government

     

    Our research showed that at the national level, the top 3 reasons that motivated voter choice were the best local candidate regardless of party (21%), trust in party motives and values (19%), and choosing the most competent government based on the senior members of the party (14%).

     

    'Best local candidate' mattered most in candidate choice, especially for opposition supporters

     

    21% of national respondents indicated that they would vote for who they thought was the best candidate locally regardless of party. This implies that fielding good candidates at the local level is key to influencing voter choice. Opposition voters were more likely to agree with this statement as the rationale for their choice (26%) than PAP voters (19%).

     

    PAP voters are more concerned with party loyalty and government quality 

     

    17% of PAP voters choose their vote due to party loyalty ("I have always voted for that party"), whereas only 8% of Opposition voters do so. PAP voters were also more likely than opposition voters to choose based on the perceived competency of the government ("I think the senior members of the party I chose would make a more competent government") and the Prime Minister ("I think the leader of the party I chose would make the best prime minister").

     

    A significant proportion of Opposition votes are used to register discontent with another party

     

    Only 9% of respondents at the national level would vote to register to discontent. However, opposition voters were more likely to vote to register their discontent: 20% agreed with this rationale as opposed to 4% of PAP supporters.

     

    PAP and Opposition voters are equally concerned with 'promises' and 'values'

     

    20% of Opposition voters and 19% of PAP voters would vote for the party whose motives and values they trusted most. Similarly, 10% of Opposition supporters and 11% of PAP supporters would vote for the party whose promises they preferred. This suggests that there is a "voting core", on both the PAP and Opposition sides who make their choices based on party values and ideology.

     

    PAP supporters' voting motivations tend to mirror Conservative voters, while Opposition supporters' motivations tend to mirror Labour voters

     

    Comparing our results with a similar question in the Lord Ashcroft polls after the UK General Elections in May 2015 shows that the responses of the PAP and Opposition supporters tend to mirror those of the Conservative and Labour supporters respectively, with Conservative supporters voting based on their preference for the prime minister or senior government members, and Labour supporters preferring best local candidates or voting tactically to stop another party from winning.

    A slight majority of Singaporeans think that Singapore is meritocratic

    "Which of these statements comes closest to your view, even if you don't completely agree with either of them?

     

    a) If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Singapore no matter what your background.

    b) In Singapore today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work."

    Our research shows that 57% of Singaporeans are optimistic about social mobility. This belief differs by party affiliation: 68% of PAP voters believe that Singapore is meritocratic, compared to 32% of Opposition voters.

     

    According to research conducted in 2013 by YouGov, 41% of American respondents believe that the American dream is impossible for most to achieve, while 38% believe it is still possible. In the UK, 43% agree that success is reserved for those from privileged backgrounds, while only 38% say that if they work hard, anyone can succeed.

     

    Recent research by NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser showed that although all classes are still confident that meritocracy works in Singapore, there may be signs that social mobility is slowing for the lower and middle classes. Richer respondents are more likely to believe that having connections and a rich family are important. In contrast, less well-off respondents believe more in luck as an ingredient for success.

    Three in five Singaporeans are optimistic about the future

    "Which of these statements comes closest to your view, even if you don't completely agree with either of them?

     

    a. For most children growing up in Singapore today, life will be better than it was for their parents

    b. For most children growing up in Singapore today, life will be worse than it was for their parents"

    Our research shows that 60% of Singaporeans believe that life for their children will be better than for the current generation. This belief differs by party affiliation - while 69% of PAP voters are optimistic about the future, only 39% of Opposition voters were optimistic.

     

    According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans were evenly divided about whether it was likely (49%) or unlikely (50%) that the next generation of youth in the country would have a better life than their parents.

    In Singapore, a 2014 Mastercard survey showed that while 68% of Singaporean youths were optimistic, only 62% of people aged 30 and above were optimistic. The economy was a key concern of the older population.

    Two in three Singaporeans believe in social safety nets

    "Which of these statements comes closest to your view, even if you don't completely agree with either of them?

     

    a. People have a right to things like decent housing, healthcare, education and enough to live on, and the government should make sure everyone has them.

    b. People are too ready to talk about their rights - they have a responsibility to provide for themselves and should not expect the government to do so for them."

    Our research shows that 66% of Singaporeans believe that people have a right to social safety nets. This belief differs by party affiliation - 63% of PAP voters believe in social safety nets, and 73% of Opposition voters do so.

     

    The 2008 European Social Survey revealed that between 65% and 90% of respondents in 29 European countries supported wide-ranging government responsibility for various welfare measures.

     

    In contrast, according to a 2001 NPR survey, Americans are generally sceptical that government help makes things better (13%) and disagree that too little is spent (38%). Yet 57% of Americans are willing to pay more taxes for more government spending to help the poor.

     

    Recent research by Irene Ng at the National University of Singapore shows that 50% of Singaporeans agree that government help is making things better and 64% think that the amount spent is too low. However, only 41% of Singaporeans are willing to pay more taxes for additional government spending to help the poor.

    Singaporeans more accurately estimate the extent of immigration than other countries

    "Out of every 100 people in Singapore, about how many do you think are Singapore citizens?"

    Our research shows that Singaporeans think that 59% of Singapore's population are citizens. This differed by party affiliation - PAP supporters estimated 61% on average, while Opposition supporters estimated 54%. In fact, 61% of Singapore's population are Singapore citizens.

     

    Singaporeans' estimate was more accurate than other benchmarked countries. In a 2014 Ipsos Mori poll of 14 countries, immigration was overestimated in every country to a greater degree. For example, Americans estimated the percentage of immigrants in their country at 32% and the British at 24%. In both countries, the real figure is only 13%.

     

    An IPS survey on integration in Singapore revealed the existence of anti-immigrant anxieties, with 64% of respondents expressing the belief that immigrants treated Singapore as a 'stepping stone' to other countries.

    Singaporeans perceive unemployment to be much higher than it actually is

    "Out of every 100 Singapore citizens of working age, about how many do you think are unemployed and looking for work?"

    On average, Singaporeans think that 27% of Singaporean citizens of working age are unemployed. This differed by party affiliation - PAP supporters estimated 25% unemployment, while Opposition supporters estimated 32%. In fact, only 2.6% of Singapore's citizens of working are unemployed.

     

    Other countries also similarly overestimate unemployment. According to a 2014 Ipsos Mori poll of 14 countries, South Koreans estimated unemployment rates in their country at 32% and Japanese at 19%. In both countries, the actual figure is only 4%.

     

    In Singapore, although relatively low unemployment rates have given rise to the perception that Singaporeans are choosy when looking for jobs, calls have also been made for a comprehensive unemployment insurance system which would benefit unemployed workers, especially older workers who experience difficulty in finding re-employment.

    One in five Singaporeans cannot name their Member of Parliament

    "Do you know the name of your local electoral constituency's Member of Parliament (MP) or any member of your Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team?"

    Our research shows that before GE2015, 18% of Singaporeans could not name their Member of Parliament. This differed by party affiliation - 14% of PAP voters could not name their Member of Parliament, whereas 28% of Opposition voters could not.

     

    According to a 2013 Hansard Society survey conducted in the UK, only 22% of people could name their own MP.

     

    In Singapore, a 2011 The New Paper survey testing Singaporeans' knowledge of opposition parties showed that younger voters tended to be more ignorant about opposition parties compared to older voters.

  • Survey Methodology

    The research was conducted August 5-17 2015. The sample size is 1378 respondents who are Singapore citizens aged 21 and above. The survey panel was weighted for age, race and gender to reflect the demographic composition of Singapore's citizen population (Census 2010). The margin for error was plus or minus 2.6% with a 95% confidence interval. Weight factors and survey questions can be found here.

     

    To improve the accuracy of the results, surveys were delivered over the internet and all responses were anonymous. Self-administered online surveys have been proven to be better than traditional phone surveys at eliciting honest self-disclosure from respondents for sensitive topics such as community beliefs and political figures. (Pew Research, 2015).

     

    We were glad to have the support of the team at SurveyMonkey Audience. SurveyMonkey Audience allows customers to conduct research from a pool of millions of people around the world who have volunteered to participate in surveys. More information about data quality and respondent selection for SurveyMonkey Audience can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/audience/our-survey-respondents/. Recent polls conducted include the 2015 U.K. Election, NBC News on Donald Trump and other case studies.

     

    We acknowledge that all surveys may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error. We welcome feedback on further research to be conducted.

     

    We are thankful for the prior research contributions of the Institute of Policy Studies, Blackbox Research, local researchers as well as similar polling by Ipsos Mori and Lord Ashcroft Polls.

  • Project Members

    Jeremy Au spoke at the Institute of Policy Studies’ flagship Singapore Perspectives conference in 2017. A proven entrepreneur, he co-founded Conjunct Consulting which has channeled over $5M of impact consulting services to over 100 social sector organizations in Singapore. Jeremy received his honor B.A. and B.S. at UC Berkeley and MBA from Harvard Business School. Honors include Forbes "30 Under 30" and he podcasts at www.jeremyau.com

    Wally Tham is the Director at Big Red Button, a Singaporean creative agency, which produces content for social change. He spends his time telling stories and creating experiences that move people toward action and ownership. He also helps organize StandUpForSG which envisions Singapore as a more gracious, creative and inspiring place.

    Yvonne holds a J.D. in Law from Singapore Management University and her Ph.D. in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore. She also holds dual M.A. degrees in International Affairs and Governance from Sciences Po and the University of St. Gallen. Her research and practice interests lie at the intersection of international relations, international law and public policy.

    Cheryl is a director in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from LKYSPP and Bachelor's Degree (Honours) in Economics from University of Melbourne. She has prior experience in the government and education sectors.

  • FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    Was the sample controlled for race, age, gender or geography?

     

    We surveyed a representative sample of 1378 Singapore citizens aged 21 and above. The sample was weighted for age, race, and gender to reflect the demographic composition of Singapore’s citizen population based on the 2010 Census. This is on par with the sampling methodology for the Post-Election 2011 Survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies. Household income data was also captured.


    As fieldwork for the survey was conducted in early August 2015, one of the limitations of our results was that we were not able to take into account the changes in electoral boundaries for GE2015 and which parties ended up contesting in which GRCs/SMCs. We did collect geographical data based on the GE2011 electoral boundaries as part of our sample. While our sample is geographically representative, it has not been weighted for geography.

     

    Why online polling? Isn’t it biased?

     

    While every effort was undertaken to ensure the objectivity of the data, we also acknowledge that every survey methodology comes with its own set of biases. We chose to test a new methodology that has not, to our knowledge, been tested in a pre-election survey in the Singapore context.

     

    This was supported by prior research showing that self-administered online surveys have been proven to be better than traditional phone surveys at eliciting honest self-disclosure from respondents for sensitive topics such as community beliefs and political figures (Pew Research, 2015). With 88% of Singapore households having access to the Internet (Infocomm Development Authority, 2014), we hypothesised that online surveys would also be a good gauge of median voter sentiment for Singapore.


    We were glad to have the support of the team at SurveyMonkey Audience. SurveyMonkey Audience allows customers to conduct research from a pool of millions of people around the world who have volunteered to participate in surveys. More information about data quality and respondent selection for SurveyMonkey Audience can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/audience/our-survey-respondents/. Recent polls conducted include the 2015 U.K. Election, NBC News on Donald Trump and other case studies.

     

    Why aren’t there more polls in Singapore?


    A number of polls have been conducted prior to or just after elections, including IPS Post-Election 2011 Survey and Blackbox Research’s work on measuring the pulse in Singapore. These previous electoral polls were mainly done either face-to-face or via telephone. We selected the online polling methodology to fill the gap in previous electoral polling research in Singapore.

     

    Is it illegal to publish a poll before, during, or after elections?

     

    According to the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA), no person is allowed to publish exit polls between the time that the writ for an election is called until the close of Polling Day. The relevant statutes are 78C and 78D.

     

    We ran the fieldwork for our survey between 5 to 17 August 2015, and published findings on national-level beliefs on 21 August 2015. The Writ of Election was issued on 25 August 2015. Polling was restricted till Polling Day on 11 September 2015. We published our survey results on party vote share and voter rationales on 15 September 2015, 4 days after Polling Day.

     

    Who commissioned this project? Who funded this project?

     

    Quad Research is an independent entity. This survey and research was funded entirely by team members acting in an individual capacity. All revenue earned from any other services will be reinvested for future public research

    Why did you do this research? What was your motivation for doing this research?


    Quad Research believes in the democratic process for a better Singapore. As a collective of individuals acting in a personal capacity, we believe that there is room for the advancement of political research in Singapore and that ordinary citizens are now able to undertake some of this work independently. We observed that online political polling was becoming increasingly credible in other democracies and wanted to test the validity of online polling with a relevant, current, and testable issue. Over the longer term, we hope that the improvement of political research will inform better decision-making by society.

     

    Can we get consulting services? Can you conduct more research for us?

     

    Please contact us via the contact form to discuss further. All revenue earned from any services will be reinvested for future public research.

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