KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — Two in three respondents in Emir Research’s quarterly survey spanning issues from public wellbeing to politics said they prefer Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, an overwhelming rating far surpassing the Pagoh MP’s immediate rivals.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a distant second with 10 per cent while Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was only rated by eight per cent of respondents, according to the third quarter poll that sought to assess public satisfaction with the government.

Muhyiddin’s popularity was found to be much higher among urban and female respondents, at 68 and 73 per cent, respectively,

By ethnicity, Malays as well as the Bumiputras of Sabah and Sarawak were said to have formed the bulk of his supporters.

The think tank also suggested strong minority support for the prime minister.

Up to half of ethnic Chinese respondents had picked the Pagoh MP as their preferred prime minister while ethnic Indian respondents followed closely at 49 per cent, although researchers noted that satisfaction with government’s performance was not a key driver for their choice.

Anwar was the second choice for respondents from these two ethnic groups.

Emir Research said one possible explanation for strong minority support for Muhyiddin is “unanimous yearning for government stability.”

“The discussants across all the FGDs (focus groups discussions) reiterated on numerous occasions that government stability is the most crucial at these trying times,” the report said.

“As one of the discussants sums it up: “Many people said that this current government is the government that we need, not the government that you want, not the government that we have chosen”.”

The findings were part of data collected for the research house’s government satisfaction index (GSI), aimed at assessing public “satisfaction towards the incumbent government” as a predictor of their intention to support the incumbent government.

The GSI for the third quarterly poll stands at 0.67. Emir Research said its GSI saw a marked increase from 0.45 in the first quarter of 2020 to 0.67 in the third quarter, up by 49 per cent.

This compares very favourably against the decrease in GSI when Pakatan Harapan was still in power, from 0.53 in fourth quarter of 2019 to 0.45 in the first quarter of 2020, a 15 per cent decline, the report added.

“This brings the satisfaction level of rakyat towards the government, which GSI measures, from being at the average band to the above average band,” the think tank remarked.

The data suggested a high sense of confidence and optimism for the future, which translated to higher satisfaction towards the government.

Researchers said the favourable view of Muhyiddin could be due to endorsement of the government’s Covid-19 response, which was perceived to balance the priority between lives and livelihoods by reopening the economy and announcing stimulus packages.

However, Muhyiddin’s obvious popularity did not extend to his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia as only a few respondents approved of the party. Just 8 per cent gave Bersatu the thumbs up compared to 42.8 per cent for Umno and over 15 per cent for PAS.

Pejuang, the smaller splinter group from Bersatu, surprisingly received a 6 per cent rating among respondents, much higher than established opposition parties like PKR and DAP, who received a 4.5 and 4.1 per cent rating each.

Worryingly for Pakatan Harapan parties, more respondents in the survey trusted independents more than all component members of the Opposition coalition, with a 5 per cent rating.

The state-wide survey was conducted in August involving 2,096 respondents from all the states in Malaysia including Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory.