Survey claims Najib ‘walks the talk’ … but Opposition dismisses poll results – By Shahrim Tamrin

The Malay Mail | PETALING JAYA, 11-June-2010 : Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak received a boost when the latest survey by the Merdeka Centre found his popularity rose to 72%, up from 69% in April this year, thus reinforcing the feeling that the country is moving in the right direction.

The survey by the independent opinion research house was carried out from May 6 to 16, after the Hulu Selangor by-election on April 25 (the Sibu by-election was on May 16), and saw a massive 80% approval from Indians, followed by Malays at 77% and Chinese at 58%.

“The public in general recognised his (Najib’s) efforts but they wished to see his policies implemented successfully, with a wait-and-see approach for his Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the New Economic Model (NEM),” said Merdeka Centre head, Ibrahim Suffian.

The Malay Mail spoke with politicians on both sides of the divide for their views on Najib’s higher approval ratings. Here’s what they said.

Johor Baru MP, Datuk Shahrir Samad (Umno):
“”The latest survey reflects a good yards tick on our PM’s popularity. It was a strong indication that Malaysians accept his people-friendly approach and this would spur him to do better.

“It is a decent assessment of his style of leadership but it’s no surprise to see the jibes by the Opposition on this poll to discredit the survey.

“We must remember the poll was conducted by an independent opinion research firm. It goes to show that the Opposition is worried.”

MCA Ayer Hitam MP, Datuk Wee Ka Siong:
“I consider the poll as a morale booster for Najib. Chinese youngsters are also warming up to his people-friendly style and his 1Malaysia concept.

“Of course, there’s room for improvement and I am sure there will be plenty more to come from the PM which may draw more support from the public, especially the Chinese community. I think his mission to turn the country into a high-income nation will receive positive response since that’s what the youngsters are really
concerned with — generating more income.”

Hulu Selangor MP P. Kamalanathan (MIC):
“This is a poll by an independent organisation and it’s a clear reflection of Najib’s efforts. I can tell you the people are upbeat about his style of leadership and plans for the country.

“It was an endorsement by Malaysians and the majority are with him. From BN’s successful campaign in the Hulu Selangor by-election, I could see the people were smitten with his approach and I know the public their trust this man to propel the country further.”

Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar (Pas):
“This popularity rating means nothing. It does not indicate anything. We should take a leaf from former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi. At one time, Abdullah reached an all-time high rating of 92% and look at what happened in the 2008 general election.

“Somehow, his popularity contributed to his downfall and we gained a lot from it. Maybe this rating improvement for Najib is another good sign for us to capture Putrajaya.”

Subang MP R. Sivarasa (PKR):
“It’s only a poll and I am not too concerned about it. It didn’t reflect the real thing even though the poll may show the general feeling among the public at the moment. The opinion poll was only conducted in Peninsular Malaysia and it was conducted after the Miri by-election.

“I believe if it’s conducted randomly in Sabah and Sarawak, I am certain it would be different. If we look back to the 2008 general election, we were almost equal on parliamentary seats with Barisan Nasional in the Peninsular, and mind you that was the aftermath of Pak Lah’s popularity.”

Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo (DAP):
“I am not sure what the survey was based on but all I want to say is that the public is still sceptical of Najib’s administration. Many decisions by him have been questionable. Popularity means next to nothing since his policies could backfire on him.

“There’s no real improvement in the GTP and the public is also, at the moment, unhappy with the sports betting issue and public wastage. Is he a reformist PM or Umno PM toeing the Umno line? The people are also unable to digest what actually is his 1Malaysia concept.”

Kulim-Bandar Baru MP, Zulkifli Noordin (Konsensus Bebas):
“I think it reflects the people’s acceptance of Najib’s leadership and the things he has been trying to implement for the past one year. His higher approval rating was due to his style of governing and openness.

“Najib’s engagement with the people so far has been unique. In my opinion, people were receptive as he listened to them. He is seen as a PM who walks the talk.”

We’re impartial

MERDEKA Centre opinion research head Ibrahim Suffian said its approval ratings survey is conducted in an objective manner and neutral from a research point of view.

“We are an independent body and our surveys have no inclination towards any side or political divide. We are impartial when working on the next best possible findings to gauge public opinion,” he said.

From his observation, he said, it’s a norm that Malaysians in general are still conservative and respectful towards politicians particularly with regards to the person who helms the position of prime minister.

He said in this country, the popularity of a politician cannot be translated into political choice.

“It’s common knowledge that some members of the public tend to speak their mind about the government or political landscape in the country. But when it comes to feedback, their answers can be guarded despite their sentiments,” said Ibrahim.

“In our surveys, we apply the same method sampling using the Likert scale (psychometric scale commonly used in questionnaires). We are always open to criticism as no survey is perfect and we recognise there are limitations.

“In any circumstance, a survey on the public is a moving dynamic. As for the public’s approval of the PM, we are interested in weighing public sentiment on local and national issues at a particular point of time.”

Ibrahim was responding to criticisms levelled at Merdeka Centre by several blogs and Opposition leaders regarding the approval ratings analysis which showed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s popularity soar to 72% in May, compared with 69% in April.

He noted that the public was increasingly pessimistic about the country’s leadership, with 58% holding the standpoint that “the Federal government was good in planning but weak in implementation”.

“For example, on the question of whether the country is heading in the right direction, only 19% were ‘very satisfied’ while 53% voted for the ‘somewhat satisfied’ answer,” said Ibrahim.

He described the people’s acceptance and level of confidence towards the PM in the urban and rural areas as diverse.

“Based on our latest survey (May 6 to 16), I can safely say that the rural people were inclined to support the PM and the urban community yet to be convinced with Najib’s leadership.

“Any support towards an idea or effort by a politician depends on a lot of factors. We must remember that in any political backdrop, not all plans reach its objectives and we must bear in mind that the public are observant.”