A survey of voters in Peninsula Malaysia shows a 67% approval rating for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, an improvement from three months earlier, with the strongest support coming from the Malays followed by the Indian and Chinese communities.
The findings come on the back of indications that the authorities are in for a longer battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, with cases on the rise since the easing of lockdowns under the movement control order (MCO).
The survey, involving 2,111 people aged 21 and above, carried out between March 31 and April 12 by pollster Merdeka Center, also found that more people (41%) felt the country was headed in the right direction, compared to 32% who felt that way in January.
Just over half (51%) said they were satisfied with the government’s management of the economy while 43% were dissatisfied.
On the management of the pandemic, 70% said they were happy with how the government was handling the problem, a marked increase from the earlier survey in January when daily cases spiralled to 4,000 with only 53% saying they were satisfied with Covid-fighting measures.
Meanwhile, some 46% of those surveyed said the country was “headed in the wrong direction”, a drop from 54%.
“Those who expressed the view that the country was headed in the right direction cited positive feelings towards the administration as well as recognition that the public’s welfare was being taken care of,” Merdeka Center said.
“Those who felt the country was headed in the wrong direction cited concerns over political stability and unfavourable economic conditions.”
The economy remained at the top of participants’ concerns (57%), followed by the Covid-19 pandemic (16%).
Interesting, only 2.4% cited politics as a concern despite an increase in political overtones from both sides of the divide on Muhyiddin’s fragile majority.
The poll found that economic concerns were due to voters’ personal financial conditions, with 57% saying they were “worse off” compared to their situation a year earlier.
A majority of respondents (68%) felt that Malaysia’s economic conditions were negative compared to a year ago, when the full brunt of the lockdowns related to Covid-19 was yet to play out.
Merdeka Center said the improvement in rating for Muhyiddin could be linked to the reopening of the economy as well as the vaccination programme.
“This is manifested in the still strong approval for the prime minister and reasonable confidence in the handling of the pandemic and economy – despite the still stressed conditions voters report for their own personal financial conditions and their perception of the economy,” it added.
It said financial assistance for households and businesses, and the easing of conditions for people to withdraw from the Employees Provident Fund, had “buoyed public perceptions of the government and its leader”.