Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's approval rating has taken a dip, while dissatisfaction with the coalition government he stitched together after the 15th general election more than doubled, according to the results of a survey released on the eve of his first anniversary in power.
The poll, conducted by Merdeka Center late last month, showed that only half of the respondents approved of his leadership, a marked decline from 68% not long after he was sworn into the top office on Nov 24 last year.
Much of the low opinion of the country's leadership stemmed from the economy, with overall dissatisfaction with the federal government at 48%.
Merdeka Center also found that the majority of voters, some 60%, believed the country was "heading in the wrong direction", with a big chunk of unhappiness related to economic issues (56%) followed by political instability (13%) and poor administration (9%).
"In our opinion, the survey reflects the expectations held by the electorate on the administration to regenerate economic growth as well as address long-standing anxiety over inflation and tepid wage growth," the centre said in disclosing its findings.
"Other issues that will shape public opinion into the future will include the form and substance of potential subsidies withdrawal, new taxation as well as a revamp in the cash transfers programme."
The survey, conducted over the phone between Oct 4 and 24, involved 1,220 voters comprising Malays (52%), Chinese (29%), Indians (7%), as well as Bumiputeras from Sabah and Sarawak, distributed across age, ethnicity, gender and state constituency.
Apart from the economy where Anwar's administration was given a lowly approval rating of 32% and a disapproval rate of 65%, the government suffered the most disapproval in upholding the rule of law (39%) and fighting corruption (37%) – major election battle cries of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
When asked why they felt the country was heading in the wrong direction, 56% gave economic reasons ranging from the high cost of living to the continuous decline of the ringgit.
Some 27% gave various other reasons related to problems affecting politics, administration and leadership such as unfulfilled promises, quality of leadership and state and national policies.
Anwar, who chose to ignore decades of animosity with Umno to obtain the party's support for PH to form the government, had branded his administration as a "unity government", with supporters frequently defending the compromise as necessary for the political stability which had eluded the country since the 2018 election that toppled the Najib Razak administration.
But a series of about-turns on political and economic reforms, as well as the controversial decision to stop the corruption trial of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi through the powers of the attorney-general, has led to increasing criticism of the coalition government.
This is coupled with the ringgit emerging as the worst-performing currency in the region, hitting its lowest value since the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s, and the outflow of RM4.2 billion from the equity market during the first half of the year.