Saturday, May 4, 2013

Misleading Merdeka Center Poll and Press Release Cloud Real Picture Ahead of GE13

A Merdeka Center poll of questionable methodology and a misleading, sensationalistic news release have made headlines, the theme of which are that Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are seemingly tied heading into the last days before elections. However, what the poll shows instead is that Malaysia's democracy is mature and BN will almost certainly win a majority at GE13.
It is important to understand that this is not a national poll, as it samples only the Peninsular, not Barisan Nasional's strongholds in Borneo. Nonetheless, in question after question – apart from the last one – Barisan Nasional outscores Pakatan Rakyat.
According to a Government spokesperson, the poll is "excellent news for Prime Minister Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional," adding that "this poll does not include the opinions of voters in the BN heartlands of East Malaysia, which, if included, would tilt the poll even more in favour of BN."
BN won GE12 by winning Borneo by crushing margins, a situation likely to be repeated. If BN held the majority in 2008 with weakness in the Peninsula and strength in East Malaysia, it is likely that with parity in the Peninsular, GE13 will return a significantly stronger majority.
But the poll is designed to hide BN's dominant performance in its results.
When asked whether "things in this country are going in the right direction" or "have gotten on the wrong track", 58 per cent of respondents said "right direction", a result largely unchanged since BN began its latest reform programme in late 2011 to early 2012.
The foremost issue of concern to Malaysians remains the economy, a Barisan Nasional strength at 25 per cent. No other issue scores in the double digits.
When asked their feelings of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, 61 per cent of those polled in the Peninsular have a favourable opinion – an approval rating any Western leader would envy – with 29 per cent having an unfavourable opinion. In a nationalised election, this important finding is buried.
Fifty per cent of Peninsular Malaysians have a favourable opinion of BN, to 31 per cent unfavourable, another consistent result. Pakatan scores only a 34 per cent favourable rating, with 27 per cent unfavourable and 32 per cent with no opinion.
Yet all these findings – which correspond with the only national poll conducted during this election, a Universiti Utara Malaysia poll released on Thursday that showed landslide-level support for BN nationally – have been hidden in a dishonest spin campaign based on the final question in the poll:
"Which one is closer to your opinion? Only BN can govern the country, or Pakatan Rakyat should be given a chance to govern the country?" The result was 41 per cent for the former, 42 per cent for the latter.
Merdeka Center and the international media describe this as an endorsement of Pakatan. Yet if that was so, Merdeka Center should never have released the poll, because it contradicts every other finding in the poll.
Answering that Pakatan "should be given a chance to govern" can hardly be seen as a voting intention, as it would be entirely reasonable that any BN supporter might agree with that too. The correct reading of this result is not that Malaysians polled on the Penninsular suddenly became Pakatan supporters on the last question. Rather, they are showing signs of being part of a mature democracy, demonstrating that they are listening to both sides and weighing their arguments carefully. Thus, the parliamentary projections in the news release by Merdeka Center – favouring Pakatan with a huge toss-up, despite the omission of East Malaysia – are also skewed and likely more fiction than fact.
The reality is that this is yet another poll showing that Barisan Nasional will almost certainly win this election – and that a politically mature rakyat will send the coalition to Putrajaya.

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