Most important quality in a candidate is integrity, followed by passion to serve
While the PAP won, Friday’s Singapore General Election saw a big swing to the opposition parties, with the PAP’s share of the vote falling by more than eight percentage points compared with 2015. YouGov’s poll of 1461 voters, conducted from 3 to 8 July offers valuable insight into what caused this and looks at what it takes to win over a Singaporean voter.
The top national issue / concern for Singaporean voters is the cost of living (26%), with the highest number of people ranking it as the most important thing when placing their votes. There were three other issues mentioned by more than one in ten voters – government accountability (15%), the COVID-19 pandemic (15%), and employment (13%).
Wealth / income equality, healthcare and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and are joint fifth (5%). Candidate suitability and housing are joint eighth (4%) in order of importance, followed by immigration and education (both 2%). Only a small fraction (1%) of Singaporeans considered matters such as racial harmony, education, discrimination and environmental issues as the most important issue.
However, there were some clear differences in priorities between PAP and Opposition voters. While both are equally concerned about cost of living, PAP voters are much more concerned with COVID-19 than Opposition voters (18% vs. 10%), and the same can be said when it comes to the issue of employment (16% vs. 10%). Conversely, Opposition voters are far more concerned about governmental accountability than PAP voters (18% vs. 12%). They are almost twice as likely to be influenced by issues such as wealth / income equality (7% vs. 4%), and twice as likely to factor in CPF (6% vs. 3%).
YouGov also asked voters what the most important qualities or traits were for a political candidate. The most important quality in a political candidate according to Singaporeans is possessing integrity, with almost a quarter (23%) picking it as the most important. This is closely followed by passion to serve (22%). Competence (11%) and honesty (10%) were in third and fourth place respectively.
While the top two candidate qualities for both PAP and Opposition voters were the same, the order of number one and number two varied. PAP voters say integrity is more important than passion (25% vs 21%), while for Opposition voters, passion to serve pips integrity (22% vs 21%).
While many commentators differed in their expectations, the election outcome was not surprising to some Singaporeans. When asked before Election Day what they believed would happen, 44% expected the PAP to win with a smaller majority – exactly what transpired. 35% expected the PAP to win with the same or an increased majority, while just 4% expected the opposition to win.
YouGov Head of Public Affairs and Polling, Dr Campbell White commented: “While some argued that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a flight to certainty during this election, this polling demonstrates that many voters had broader concerns. This research provides valuable insights which help explain the voters’ choices at the ballot box.”
***YouGov interviewed a representative sample of 1461 Singapore Citizens aged 21 years and over between 3-8 July 2020