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The Big Read: Satisfaction with Govt since GE 2011 at high level, survey shows

SINGAPORE — A vast majority of Singaporeans are satisfied with the Government’s overall performance since the watershed elections in 2011, a state of the nation survey commissioned by MediaCorp has found.

87 per cent of the respondents were positive about the state of their local community or neighbourhood.TODAY file photo

87 per cent of the respondents were positive about the state of their local community or neighbourhood.TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — A vast majority of Singaporeans are satisfied with the Government’s overall performance since the watershed elections in 2011, a state of the nation survey commissioned by MediaCorp has found.

On the whole, 88 per cent of the 2,000 eligible voters polled face-to-face from July 11 to Aug 6 rated favourably the Government’s showing. Nearly two-thirds of respondents gave either "good" or "very good" ratings.

The bulk of the respondents — sampling was based on the latest available population data from the Singapore Department of Statistics last year — also reacted positively when asked to score three areas, namely, their lives in Singapore now, the current state of their local community or neighbourhood, and living standards in the country at the moment.

Drilling down to specific issues, those surveyed gave full props to the Government for its handling of defence and national security, the low crime levels, and top-notch education system, out of a 25-item list.

Nevertheless, they expressed notable dissatisfaction with some aspects in Singapore, in particular, with the cost of living, housing affordability, and the management of foreigner inflow, despite policy moves in the past four years.

The survey was conducted by Blackbox Research, a 14-year-old company which has done numerous studies for commercial clients and regional governments, including Singapore’s.

It sought to flesh out Singaporeans’ thinking on wide-ranging areas, with the 83 questions spanning sentiment on living in Singapore in general terms, satisfaction with progress on specific areas — including some of the foremost thorny issues thrown up during the 2011 General Election — and expectations on Members of Parliament they vote into power.

The respondents came from all the electoral constituencies and the poll was geographically and demographically representative of the voting population.

(Click to enlarge)

Satisfaction levels on three broad areas were gauged on a scale of one to 10. On how they felt about “your life in Singapore”, 87 per cent of them chalked off ratings of six and higher. Another question on their satisfaction with the state of their local community or neighbourhood garnered similarly positive responses from 87 per cent of them, while three-quarters were pleased with the current standard of living in Singapore.

In terms of mean scores to these questions — based on a scale of 0 to 10, with satisfaction in ascending order — the results were 7.2, 7.0 and 6.4, respectively.

That the general sentiment was broadly positive on the Government’s overall performance came as little surprise to political analysts. Whether this will translate to votes for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the coming elections, however, remains to be seen, they added.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh, from the National University of Singapore, said: “You saw a highly responsive government, trying to address issues that were politically costly for her in the last GE — especially on foreign migrants, housing, cost of living, the rich-poor gap — and I am not surprised that overall, the thumbs up was high.”

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong added that the high rating are “probably a function of the policy shifts by the Government since GE2011”.

“Having said that, voters will have other considerations beyond Government performance when they go to the polls,” he said. “There is a reasonable argument that Singaporeans generally want more Opposition representation in Parliament, quite regardless of how well the Government has been performing. Another reasonable argument that can be made, is that the Government would likely not have undertaken those policy shifts resulting in the positive perceptions, if not for the GE2011 results.”

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan added that whether the good report card will result in the People’s Action Party winning back voters “boils down to what voters regard as the ‘sweet political spot’ in our system of government”.

“Despite the relatively favourable response, does the survey mask the thinking as to what has contributed to the Government’s good performance? Is it the largest presence of Opposition MPs, the poor showing in GE2011, or that the PAP has rediscovered its grassroots mojo?” he noted.

Associate Professor Tan, who is a former NMP, also wondered if the overall sentiments “could also be affected, positively, by the lead-up and climax of SG50 celebrations”.

The Government’s handling of defence, crime levels and education, which garnered approval from an overwhelming majority of respondents, was a shoo-in for a sterling report card, observers said.

PAP Member of Parliament (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) Denise Phua said: “Public defence, security and education receive the largest pie in the national budget of our small nation-state; they hold strategic importance to our immediate and future survival.”

Others noted that the same areas have seen Singapore garner accolades from ashore for a long time, which reinforces Singaporeans’ affirmation of the Government’s work on these fronts.

Of the issues on the other end of the scale, the three areas that worried more than half of the respondents were cost of living (74 per cent), housing affordability (57 per cent), and the inflow of foreigners (57 per cent).

Respondents felt that wage increments have not kept pace with rising expenses, even as many gave the Government credit for giving the low- and middle-income support. On the issue of foreigners coming to Singapore, the main worry was that the public infrastructure would not be able to cope.

On housing, they were happy with the supply of HDB flats, but not so with their affordability.

One common reaction observers had was that “policy shifts take time to be executed, communicated, and felt”, as Ms Phua put it.

She added: “The restriction of foreign manpower, for instance, is increasingly felt by businesses but perhaps not yet by the man in the street.”

Still, voters here have always had “deep-seated concern” with bread-and-butter issues, analysts noted.

Said Assoc Prof Bilveer Singh, from the National University of Singapore: “Cost of living or bread-and-butter issues has been a perennial issue in every GE since 1959. But I thought much was done to address the housing affordability issue especially for first-time buyers and for stemming the inflow of foreigners.”


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