Survey: Politicians can no longer talk their way out of trouble with voters now more savvy

Citrine One managing partner and crisis communications lead counsel Ivlynn Yap speaks during a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur October 16, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Citrine One managing partner and crisis communications lead counsel Ivlynn Yap speaks during a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur October 16, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — Politicians should be more cautious with their statements, with voters now more aware and demanding, said a survey aimed at gauging public opinion on the communication style, effectiveness and strategy of Opposition political leaders published today.

The 21-day survey conducted by Citrine One, in collaboration with Callmark Solutions Sdn Bhd, showed that voters are choosing representatives based on capability, credibility and trustworthiness.

“If you think you, as a political leader, can talk anyway you want, those days are gone. People are more demanding of their leaders.

“It’s the people that will be changing the political landscape. So the Opposition leaders have got to walk the talk. Voters are more educated and demanding,” Citrine One’s managing partner and crisis communications lead counsel Ivlynn Yap said.

In a briefing to the media here, Yap said 1,115 respondents, mostly from the Klang Valley, said the key areas they want Opposition leaders to speak up and be more vocal on are mainly education, cost of living and corruption.

The survey’s results also revealed that 52 per cent of Opposition leaders are speaking up just for their own party’s interest, 29 per cent for their own personal interest, and only 19 per cent for the public’s wellbeing.

“It’s all about the impression and communication, and many felt that the Opposition leaders should have spoken up on pressing issues this year.

“People now feel what politicians are speaking about are for their own political survival. People are noticing the way [the leaders] conduct themselves and the way they speak and how they perform.

“The people are getting more educated. They won’t just believe what you say,” Yap stressed.

Among specific issues that respondents felt Opposition leaders could have managed better since the beginning of the year was the introduction of Khat and jawi, the matriculation fiasco and the Sungai Kim Kim river pollution.

48 per cent of the respondents said communication on the introduction of Khat could have been better handled while 34 per cent said they were unhappy with how the issues were handled.

On the matriculation issue, 45 per cent said the Opposition could have done better while 17 per cent were unhappy, while on the Sungai Kim Kim river pollution, 52 per cent said there was a need of improvement in handling the issues.

On other matters, such as the deaths of Kuala Koh Orang Asli, 59 per cent said there was a need for improvement, while on the Lynas plantation fiasco, 61 per cent said the same.

About 45 per cent said there was fair communication in handling the palm oil issue, while 64 per cent said the introduction of a flying car was poorly handled, with 64 per cent being unhappy.

In conclusion, Yap shared that Opposition leaders need to build up the people's trustworthiness in them, and there is an urgent need to rethink the way they present themselves in Parliament.

“Despite the circumstances, people still want Opposition parties and leaders to speak up on corruption as they want them to be more accountable and also to build a strong voice to criticise the current government if the same corruption issues arise.

“As you can see, most of the data comes from the urban people. The younger generation is no easy meat, they are more educated. They want leaders to be accountable for the words they use...That is what communication is about,” Yap said.

“They need to do more, they need to speak up more on pressing issues and voice out more on specific issues. They need to be seen to be careful of what they say. When you say something, walk the talk,” she added.

Meanwhile, the survey also showed that 17 per cent of respondents stated that the Opposition leaders’ communications strategy was racial in nature, showing that divisive politics is still prevalent.

15 per cent agreed that the political parties were vocal and “confusing”, receiving 14 per cent of respondents’ vote.

Respondents also found the Opposition’s communication as inaccurate and inconsistent (13 per cent). Only 8 per cent of respondents were convinced by the Opposition leaders’ communication.

Consistency notched the lowest votes with a mere 6 per cent from respondents. This may be due to the parties not having primary causes that they champion and messages not being aligned.

18 to 30-year-olds form the majority number of respondents (45 per cent), followed by respondents aged between 31-40 (28 per cent). Respondents aged 41-50 and 50 and above made up 15 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

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