Survey: Politicians least trusted, online media better than print

KUALA LUMPUR: What is the most important attribute in a politician? About 72% of Malaysians polled say it is honesty.

The survey of 1,000 people commissioned by the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) found that politicians were the least trusted among eight institutions and entities polled. Only 16% trusted them.

The survey also found that online media is more trusted than mainstream media as it is perceived as having more freedom to report on issues.

In a statement, Cenbet said: “When it comes to the media, the alternative online media enjoyed significantly higher trustworthiness at 31%, compared with traditional print publications (23%).”

The main reason for not trusting traditional mainstream media is that, according to 64% of respondents, “newspapers are not free to report without interference”.

The main criticism against online media was that it was deemed to be “unfair and to publish inaccurate/fake news” (57%). However, 75% of those who trusted online news were impressed with its “freedom to report without interference from external parties”.

Next to honesty, those polled said “dedication to serve the community and country” was an important attribute for politicians. About 68% of those polled said so.

The nationwide survey carried out earlier this year found that education level (29%) and personal wealth (19%) were the least important attributes for politicians.

Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu, who released the survey findings here today, said: “As a civil society group that advocates transparency and good governance, we are deeply concerned about society’s poor regard for politicians, especially with regard to their trustworthiness.”

About 45% of respondents found the judicial system to be trustworthy, citing judges’ integrity as the main reason (55%) for their confidence.

Those who found the courts to be untrustworthy, however, said judges’ lack of integrity was their main concern (56%).

“Other notable comments include a perceived lack of separation of power between judiciary and government i.e. political interference, control and influence by government,” Cenbet said.

The survey also revealed that 62% of respondents found local authorities such as municipal councils “not trustworthy”. Their main grouse was “inefficient service” (at 66%) followed by “perceived corruption” (at 47%).

Cenbet said 60% of those polled said the police force was not trustworthy.

“Of this, perceived corruption was the main reason for their trust deficit (71%) while 41% found the force lacking in professionalism. For those who found the force to be trustworthy, 51% attributed this to the efficiency of the men in blue.”

The institution that enjoyed the highest trust level was the Malaysian Armed Forces at 60%. Most respondents (60%) who trusted the institution were impressed with its discipline and found their personnel to be well-trained. Among those who distrusted the armed forces, 47% said it was because the force was not impartial and fair to all, the survey found.

“When it came to trustworthiness of institutions, the common theme boils down to fairness, integrity and efficiency. Institutions perceived to be fair and efficient score higher in public trustworthiness,” said Gan.

He said Cenbet would present the detailed findings to the newly-established Committee on Institutional Reforms as input for the government to enhance trust and public delivery in key institutions.

Cenbet said the online survey was carried out in accordance with the guidelines and standards of the International Chamber of Commerce and the Esomar Code of Practice. Both are globally accepted standards in the fields of market opinion as well as social research and data analytics.