KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 ― Public approval for the new Pakatan Harapan government is now just 39 per cent, according to independent pollster Merdeka Center.
The poll also put Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s personal popularity at 46 per cent, indicating his influence that continues to outstrip that of the coalition.
“This was a marked decline compared to the 71 per cent recorded in August 2018,” Merdeka Center said.
“The decline in public support for the administration can also be seen in the number of voters who felt the ‘country was headed in the wrong direction’, which increased from 24 per cent in August 2018 to 46 per cent in March 2019.”
In the August survey, the government's approval rating was 67 per cent.
It said the drop was likely due to the public’s perception of the country’s economic performance, the government’s showing, and concerns over Malay rights and privileges as well as fair treatment of other races in Malaysia.
Public confidence in PH’s handling of the economy, in particular, fell by a third from last August to land at 40 per cent this March.
Despite high-profile incidents revolving around race in the country, however, Merdeka Center said respondents were primarily disapproving due to their concerns about the economy, with a focus on rising costs.
Over half of respondents said inflationary pressures and rising costs were their chief worry, or more than double the 23 per cent who expressed concern about the perceived erosion of Malay rights and privileges.
One bright spark was the decline in those worried about corruption, which fell from 33 per cent in the previous poll to 23 per cent in the latest.
Another positive note Merdeka Center discovered was respondents’ patience with PH notwithstanding their dissatisfaction over the coalition's stewardship of Malaysia.
Over two in three said the new government must be given more time to deliver, including 52 per cent of Malay respondents.
The Malay stance is noteworthy as PH won the election without majority support from the community.
PH won the 14th general election in an upset victory during the May 9 general election last year.
Merdeka Center polled 1,204 voters aged 21 and above from across all 14 states and Federal Territories via phone interviews from March 5 to 11.