Young Singaporeans more likely to say they are ready for an ethnic minority Prime Minister

Bhawna SinghPublic Relations Lead, APAC & MENA
September 13, 2023, 8:21 AM GMT+0

President-elect Tharman Shanmugaratnam's historic win at the 2023 Presidential elections has sparked positive conversations around a multi-racial society.

Latest data from YouGov Survey shows that Singaporeans are more likely to say they are ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister. More than three in five Singaporeans (63%) agree with the statement, ‘I believe Singapore is ready to have a qualified, ethnic minority Prime Minister’.

15% think Singapore is not yet ready but will be some day, while over a fifth (22%) are either never going to be ready or are unsure of their answer, suggesting that although Singapore is on the journey to racial inclusivity, there is still some more way to go before it becomes a post-race society.

Millennials and Gen Z Singaporeans (at 73% and 76% respectively) seem to be more ready for an ethnic minority Prime Minister compared to Gen X, Merdeka, and Pioneer generations (57%, 54% and 57% respectively) though the older generations are not entirely against the idea and are more likely to indicate Singapore will be ready in the future.

Unsurprisingly, ethnic minorities are more likely to believe that Singapore is ready to have a qualified, ethnic minority Prime Minister. Malay Singaporeans resonate most strongly with this sentiment (at 73%), followed by Indians (68%) and others. Although lower than the ethnic minorities, the proportion of Chinese Singaporeans who believe in the same view is considerable (at 60%), highlighting that skill and qualification is more relevant than ethnicity when electing a national leader.

Even among ethnic Chinese Singaporeans, there is still a noticeable generational divide. Millennials and Gen Zs are significantly more likely to believe that Singapore is ready for a qualified ethnic-minority Prime Minister compared to Gen X, Merdeka, and Pioneer generations. It should also be noted that 27% of ethnic-Chinese Merdeka Generation Singaporeans believe that Singapore will eventually have a qualified ethnic-minority Prime Minister.

A hot issue during the campaign period was the independence that the presidential candidate would have once elected. At 70%, Singaporeans are confident that President-elect Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be able to act as an independent, non-partisan President.

When it comes to the role and work of a President, Singaporeans are most confident about President-elect Tharman’s ability in representing Singapore on the world stage with over half (54%) saying he will do very well. This is expected given his international standing and leadership in multiple international organisations.

71% of Singaporeans also believe he will do a good job in promoting racial harmony as well as national unity (70%) among Singaporeans. Ethnic Indians are most confident in his ability to promote racial harmony (at 48%), as compared to the Chinese (36%) or Malay (32%).

Although President-elect Tharman scores high across the board, Singaporeans are comparatively less confident of his ability to set up ground-up initiatives to help the disadvantaged (56%) as well as providing guidance on social issues such as Mental Health and Gender Inequality (55%).


YouGov interviewed 1,000 Singaporean citizens aged 21+ between 8th and 11th September 2023. The effective margin of error on this survey is ±3.099%. YouGov conducts its polling using active sampling techniques from our online panel. When using Active Sampling, restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people contacted are allowed to participate. We target specific demographics to ensure that the final sample is representative of the population by age, gender, ethnicity, and electorate. This approach is used for YouGov polling globally.

*Base for Pioneer generation is small (n<30) so their numerical results may be skewed