The New Paper Young Voters survey probed 1,003 young voters. What issues do young Singaporean voters care about? What shapes their thinking? Today, in the last of the five-part series, two youth wing leaders say what the results mean to them
Mr Koh Choong Yong, 37, Workers’ Party youth wing president, WP executive council member and webmaster, and IT consultant by profession
Are you surprised by any of the results? Are they consistent with your feedback and interaction with the ground?
TEO SER LUCK: I thought the Internet would rank higher and have a bigger share, but newspapers still came out tops. Mainstream media is still where people get most of their news.
KOH CHOONG YONG: The one that is quite surprising is that most people think it’s effective to affect policy change through posting on Internet forums and blogs.
Because that is not how Singapore’s policies are being made today, (policy makers) don’t go to (random) websites and say, “This person is saying this, so we do it this way.” It’s quite surprising that people have this perception.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Tin Pei Ling was the victim of online attacks. Does your political party have existing new media guidelines? Are you adding new rules in light of what happened?
TEO: These are candidates’ personal and private photos. Because of social media platforms, a lot of people are sharing their pictures openly.
When you share your joy, the things you do, people may use the information for other motives. On guidelines, we don’t have any hard and fast rules. Just be careful with what you share in public, especially when you become a public figure.
Things that others dig up from the past, you can’t control it. You can only hope there is a healthy political environment.
KOH: We do not wish to comment on Ms Tin Pei Ling. About a year ago, we sent out social media guidelines to our WP central executive council and Youth Wing executive committee, people who represent the party. These were more reminders, like you do not necessarily have to answer every post, think twice before you post something, and be careful how you use social media, because whatever you say represents the party.
Do the findings affirm the strategies your party and your party’s youth wing have been using to engage young voters, like new media? Or, would you consider changing strategies given some of these findings?
TEO: New media is seen as a platform of engagement which gives you extended information apart from the ground. While the statistics on which media and source of information most influences their vote is good information, face to face engagement is still important.
Not just to win votes, but to have interaction and understand more about the ground, their concerns, meet their needs, find out what improvements can be made.
We will continue our work on the ground and continue to engage younger members and residents. Our current strategy has helped Young PAP record our highest recruitment numbers so far. We believe we are on the right track. From a broader perspective, what the Government is trying to do is to ensure opportunities for young Singaporeans.
KOH: In terms of social media, we have clear ideas that it’s just one channel. It is not the most important channel, neither is it a channel that we can ignore.
However, the Workers’ Party (WP) still views that the most important means of getting to know the concerns of residents is through face-to-face engagement during our walkabouts and house-to-house visits.
New media helps people be more aware and find out more about us, but (for) the final step of supporting or joining us, we still have to have face-to-face interactions.
Traditional media (newspaper and TV) still appears to be the most influential media. As of now, we think our strategy is okay. Now that we’re in election mode, WP is focusing on the ground and face-to-face, though we have (an) online presence.
What do the results tell you about young Singaporean voters? Are they as apathetic as they’re made out to be?
TEO: There’s a growing interest in politics. But looking at the top issues concerning them, we can see that young voters are still practical, rational and pragmatic in nature.
What seems most important to them, like getting a job, getting a house, shows a good grounding in reality. Other things like politics might not resonate with most of them that much.
The majority feel a need for more opposition. That’s understandable because when one party has been the ruling party for 50 years, there’s bound to be some people saying, “Why not have alternative voices, different ideas?”
Young voters focus on the immediate tasks ahead, like school, career, personal issues, family. I think in the bigger environment of politics, it may not resonate with them when they are concerned with supporting themselves and their future.
KOH: Although about a quarter of the respondents say the General Election’s not of concern to them, 61 per cent still say they’ll vote even if voting’s not compulsory. This shows that young people do care and want to have a say.
The youngest group (21 to 25) may not be politically apathetic but busy with other pursuits like trying to build a career. They may have views on issues like cost of living, jobs, transport and housing, but they usually have not associated these concerns with politics.
The survey results also show that older (young voters) are more concerned.
As you progress in your stage of life, you’re able to make more connections in your thinking about how a policy made right will make an impact in your life.
What were the key points in the survey for you?
TEO: I read through the articles and I thought the survey was informative. It gives me an understanding of what’s on some of the young voters’ minds.
There’s a common belief that the Internet has affected many young voters’ view of the ruling party, that we don’t get that kind of support. There’s also a belief that young people are going to swing the vote, with the Internet giving new perspectives and a sometimes negative spin to what we do.
But among the young people surveyed, the majority still find the PAP the most credible, and there’s a strong belief we are the party they are most confident in.
The numbers are encouraging. It shows that our daily work on the ground, serving different segments of society, has had a positive outcome.
KOH: It’s a good sign that there appears to be high awareness of WP among those surveyed. We have more work to do, and the WP Youth Wing has been working hard to increase awareness of WP both online and on the ground.
Out of the top six hot-button issues, the need for good governance appears to be high on the priority list, taking up ranks two (need for good and efficient government), four (fairness of policies) and six (checks and balances in Parliament).
WP also believes that the Singapore Parliament should not be heavily dominated by just one political party, with no checks and balances.
If there is one thing you want to say to the young voter...
TEO: You can make a difference in a small or big way. It doesn’t have to be in politics. It can be in any field.
Now’s the time for you to do the best you can, and in whatever you do, work hard.
When you are successful, don’t forget to lend a helping hand to those behind you. Every young person counts no matter who you are.
Since the election fever is on, I will also jump in with this – for the very young, start reading the front page, not just the sports page of the newspaper. For the young adults of voting age, you will decide our country’s future even with just one vote. Vote wisely.
KOH: Consider carefully whether wewant a Parliament where the ruling party is 100 per cent in control, or do we want a Parliament where there are opposition MPs elected to have a mandate to speak for the people, and make the ruling party pay attention.
The New Paper Young Voters 2011 survey was conducted by market research agency agri opus PRoBa from December 2010 to January 2011.
A total of 1,003 Singaporeans aged 21 to 35 were interviewed face to face.
Interviews were conducted outside shopping malls, MRT stations, libraries and at bus interchanges and town hubs in 15 housing estates across Singapore, covering the west, north, north-east, east and central regions, on weekdays and weekends.