PPBM-related survey method is questionable, experts say

jenini-aziz-zaidPETALING JAYA: To say a survey accurately represents the sentiments on the ground, it has to be conducted in a way that takes into account the true demographics of the country.

But a 2016 survey titled “What Malaysia Wants”, commissioned by a group which has now joined PPBM and revealed yesterday, may have overlooked this.

As a result, it found that among others, PAS is the party that is most popular in the country, followed by the Barisan Nasional (BN) and PKR.

Another finding of the survey is that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang is the third most preferred prime ministerial candidate, next only to PPBM leaders Muhyiddin Yassin and Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Meanwhile, the survey also suggested strong support for Hadi’s private member’s bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, better known as Act 355, even though the issue is still being hotly debated, and is divisive even among the Malays.

It is important to note, however, that the survey was conducted some time between July and August last year, on nearly 3,000 respondents from 30 parliamentary constituencies nationwide.

1,952 or 67.6% of these respondents were Malays, 687 or 23% were Chinese, and only 168 or 5.6% were Indians. The remaining 78 respondents were Bumiputera folk from Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the unspecified “other races”.

As for the areas these respondents live in, only 625 (23.1%) were from the urban areas, while the balance of respondents were scattered around rural areas, small towns, and settlements such as Felda.

According to academic Dr Jeniri Amir, the survey should have polled at least 50% of those from the urban areas, as they make up roughly the same number of voters.

This is because if those surveyed came mainly from the rural or semi-urban areas, then the findings would be “very biased”, said the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak associate professor.

“It is important for any survey to have validity and whatever it is, they (the group conducting the survey) must find out the true sentiments on the ground. There shouldn’t be any hidden agenda,” he told FMT.

Jeniri added that the skew in demographics might also explain why Pakatan Harapan’s favourite for the prime ministerial post, Anwar Ibrahim was ranked sixth behind Muhyiddin, Mahathir, Hadi, as well as Mukhriz Mahathir and PAS’ former youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz.

“If the majority of those polled were Chinese, the findings may have been different. That’s why it is important to have respondents who reflect the demography of the country.”

University Malaya associate professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi in echoing the view, pointed out that the findings might no longer be applicable as the political situation now greatly differed from when the survey was conducted, almost a year ago.

“If more people from the urban areas had been polled, the results would have been completely different,” he told FMT.

“And last year, the Act 355 debates were not as heated as they have been this year. There was also no question of PAS pulling away from PKR.

“On top of that, PAS then was seen as an Islamic Malay-based party that would have never formed any political cooperation with Umno.”

Constitutional law professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari agreed, adding that Pakatan Harapan had only begun touring rural and semi-urban areas to inform people there about the alleged corruption and mismanagement committed by the BN government late last year.

Hence, at the time the survey was conducted, these members of the public were perhaps still unsure of the extent of the scandals, such as the one plaguing state-owned 1MDB, he said.

“The rural and semi-urban folks have to rely more on mainstream media such as Utusan and TV3 for information. So perhaps they bought the government’s claim that all was well with the country.

“But there is greater awareness now, which makes me feel that there is something quite odd with this survey.”

Meanwhile, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim, when contacted, said the survey was “not reliable”, and that it was not an accurate reflection of what the country really wants.

“If you ask these questions to those who are probably PAS members or supporters, they would probably say they think very highly of Hadi.

“But if you ask my group of friends, Hadi will be at the bottom. So the survey is not reliable, because in any survey, the findings depend very much on the methodology, who’s behind it, and how the questions are phrased.

“There’s nothing alarming (about the survey).”

According to PPBM supreme council member Rais Hussin, the survey was led by seven public university professors, whose identities were not disclosed, and carried out by 45 enumerators who surveyed the respondents face-to-face in the constituencies.