A new survey of Malaysian youths has revealed an indifference to politics, in one possible signal on whether the move to lower the legal voting age to 18 will have an impact in the general election.
The survey by public opinion pollster Merdeka Center showed that more than two-thirds of youths have no interest in participating in politics.
The remaining 30% who are interested comprise mostly males, Malays and those in the higher income bracket.
The survey involved phone interviews with 2,520 youths aged 18 to 30 over a period of one month between Feb 19 and March 20 this year, a few days before the Election Commission announced that the plan to allow 18-year-olds to vote could only be implemented in September 2022, drawing criticism by politicians from both sides of the divide.
Respondents came from racial backgrounds reflecting the national demography, 71% of whom had completed tertiary education. About 40% were employed in the private sector and some 28% were still studying.
The indifference of youths to politics was further emphasised by the fact that most (78%) said politics and government were “complicated” and that they “can’t really understand what’s going on”.
Some 66% dismissed politicians, saying they “don’t care what people like me think”.
Merdeka Center said its findings point to the direct impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on younger Malaysians.
It said while they “remain optimistic about their future prospects and achieving their goals”, the youths have low opinion of politics and politicians.
“It also speaks of the difficulty that political actors will have in approaching and persuading this group as they are generally dismissive of politicians and politics,” Merdeka Center added.
A majority of youths (45.4%) said the economy would be the biggest challenge facing the country, followed by concerns over health due to Covid-19 (3.6%). Only 2% thought politics was a problem.
However, they were fairly split in their views about the direction of the country, with 46% positive about the current direction and 42% saying the country is headed in the wrong direction, the latter citing political instability and economic conditions.
Despite the gloomy sentiments, the vast majority of those polled, more than 80%, said they were confident of achieving their goals as well as their future prospects.
Sports and entertainment remained their top interests (56%). Notably, interest in e-Games (8%) was higher than education (6%).