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Najib approval rating climbs to 68pc
02-Apr-2010, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak is in a stronger position today than he was 12 months ago, when he was appointed Malaysia’s sixth prime minister, a recent survey has shown.

Then, his approval rating was a dismal 44 per cent; the economy was slipping into unforgiving negative territory, and he seemed vulnerable as he was pelted by bad news everywhere he turned.

Today, the proportion of Malaysians satisfied with his performance as the PM stands at 68 per cent, the highest it has been since the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research began tracking his approval ratings in April 2009, the month he replaced Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya.

Merdeka Center polled 883 registered voters in West Malaysia between March 11 and March 27, and the questions covered the direction of the country, public satisfaction with the prime minister, and perception of some of his key initiatives.

A summary of the survey was obtained by The Malaysian Insider.

The pollster noted that, since June 2009, satisfaction levels with Najib’s performance as premier has hovered in the 65 per cent range, plummeting sharply once to 56 per cent in September last year, in the wake of the cow head protest by mainly Umno members against the construction of a Hindu temple in Shah Alam and the death of DAP aide, Teoh Beng Hock, while in the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

In the latest survey, 68 per cent of the respondents said that they were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance. This upward trend occurred despite issues that erupted recently, such as the “Allah” controversy and subsequent attacks on places of worship.

Najib’s improved numbers is also the result of a recuperating economy, along with an opposition which has been troubled by defections and infighting.

Some 74 per cent of Malays polled were satisfied with Najib’s performance, while 77 per cent of Indians fell into the same category, indicating perhaps that the minority community has been won over by the PM’s symbolic gestures, including visiting Batu Caves during Thaipusam and his pledge to uplift the economic status of Indians.

On the back of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) campaign, the detention of its leaders, and general disenchantment with the MIC, Indians deserted the Barisan Nasional in Election 2008.

Najib has in the last 12 months bypassed the MIC and gone directly to Indian NGOs and the community on a charm offensive. But the survey showed that Najib and the Barisan Nasional have yet to win over the Chinese.

Slightly over 50 per cent of Malaysian Chinese polled gave him the thumbs up. The community has been the target of attacks by Perkasa, a Malay NGO, and right-wing elements in Umno who have tried to picture the Chinese as a threat to Malay political dominance. Sixty-six per cent of Chinese polled held negative sentiments towards Umno.

In the summary of the survey, Ibrahim Suffian of Merdeka Center cautioned that a high approval rating should not be misconstrued as electoral support, but rather agreement with the intentions and stated policies of the PM.

For example, he noted that though 74 per cent of Malays were satisfied with Najib’s first year in office, based on the “right versus wrong track question’’ (a proxy for ballot type of question), Merdeka Center estimates that between 55 and 57 per cent of the Malay electorate would vote for Barisan Nasional.

Among the other key findings of the survey are:

More Malaysians placed their trust in Najib (31 per cent) than in Umno (22 per cent). Of all the major races, Indians placed the highest trust in Najib (51 per cent) compared with Umno (13 per cent) while the Chinese believed in the PM (46 per cent) rather than the ruling party (6 per cent).
Some 61 per cent of Malaysians polled do not agree with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST). The administration recently announced that it was delaying the introduction of the GST to obtain more feedback from the public but the opposition dismissed the explanation, pointing that the government’s flip-flop was the result of fear of a voter backlash.
Just under 60 per cent of Malaysians surveyed do not support the removal of subsidies.
Most Malaysians view Najib as approachable (80 per cent).
Ibrahim noted that though the findings of the survey indicated that Najib was in a stronger position than 12 months ago, there were a couple of provisos.

“Translating this approval into electoral support, however, requires delivering tangible proof that the steps taken are working and that the nation is on its way towards reaching the goals spelt out by the PM,” he noted in the summary.

The Malaysian public expect Najib to deliver on his promises as soon as possible, preferably within the next one or two years.

The Najib administration has unveiled its ambitious government transformation programme. And the main planks of the programme are reducing crime and corruption, two areas which the public have found the government’s commitment wanting.

In addition to the government transformation programme, the PM also outlined the main features of the New Economic Model and has promised to make public the timeframe for implementing the new model.


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