Thursday, May 14, 2020

4 in 10 S’poreans rate political leaders highly in Covid-19 response, a third surprised at ‘poor’ preparations: Survey


14 May, 2020

SINGAPORE — Around the world, people’s confidence is generally wavering in their national leaders’ handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, an international study released on Wednesday (May 13) has found.

This includes Singapore, where 41 per cent of Singaporeans rated their leaders highly, slightly ahead of the global average of 40 per cent but behind places such as China (86 per cent), Vietnam (82 per cent), New Zealand (67 per cent), Malaysia (59 per cent), Taiwan (52 per cent) and the Philippines (45 per cent).

The survey had asked  to the crisis on a scale of 1 (very bad) to 10 (excellent). The proportion of respondents who scored their political leaders between 8 and 10 — or those who rated their leaders “highly” — were compared across the various territories.

Singaporeans’ perception of their political leaders’ response to Covid-19 was ahead of territories including Thailand (22 per cent), South Korea (21 per cent), France (14 per cent), Hong Kong (11 per cent) and Japan (5 per cent).

The public opinion study, which polled more than 12,500 people across 23 territories around the world in April, was conducted by technology firm Toluna and Singapore-based social research agency Blackbox Research. A total of 300 Singaporean respondents were selected randomly across key demographics.

“With the number of infections over 4.2 million worldwide, world leaders have seen their political leadership scrutinised by its citizens amid mounting pressures to stem the pandemic. Only seven out of the 23 (territories’) political leaders were rated highly for their crisis response by at least 50 per cent of its citizens,” the agency said in a media release.

Blackbox chief executive officer David Black added: “For many of these countries, this pandemic is unprecedented. Governments are still coming to terms with a crisis they did not expect, and public confidence suffered as a result.

“Meanwhile, a significant part of Asia has had their leadership shaped by past epidemics, such as Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which means citizens are putting a great amount of trust in their governments to have the necessary measures in place.”

Aside from political leadership, the study also measured citizen sentiments in corporate leadership, the community and the media.

Taking these four categories into account, Singapore scored an index of 48 — placing it in ninth spot among the 23 territories across the world, and seventh among those in Asia.

Blackbox noted that Singapore had the same score as Indonesia, and it was above the global average of 45.

China, with an overall score of 85, topped the index, followed by Vietnam at 77. New Zealand is the sole “Western nation” to rate highly, with a score of 56.

Japan ranked last, at 16, due to poor perceptions of political and business leadership, as well as poor community performance during the crisis.


In Singapore, the study found that 93 per cent of Singaporean respondents felt that the Government had kept the public informed with accurate information about the coronavirus.

About 34 per cent of the respondents were surprised at how poorly prepared Singapore was, though this is a relatively low figure compared with other countries. Only Taiwan and Vietnam fared better, with 27 per cent of respondents stating they were surprised at the lacklustre preparation in these territories.

In response to another question about perceived “winners or losers” when the pandemic is over, 42 per cent of respondents felt that Singapore will emerge stronger from the crisis, while 26 per cent felt otherwise.

This relative confidence of Singapore in the aftermath puts the Republic ahead of most Western countries, including the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, though a higher percentage of people in China, South Korea and Japan were confident that their country would emerge stronger, the study found

One example cited in the study was pandemic-related technology, with Singapore respondents more optimistic than most nations that better pandemic technology will emerge in the aftermath of the crisis.

Mr Black said Singapore’s “positive score” reflects its “aggressive and phased Covid-19 strategy” supported by continuous public communication efforts.

“While a small percentage of Singaporeans feel that they could have been better prepared, this is partly due to a heightened expectation coming out from past epidemics such as Sars, where Singaporeans expect the Government to have all its bases covered when it comes to responding to similarly serious respiratory pathogens,” he said.


When asked to score how businesses responded to the crisis, three in four Singaporean respondents gave businesses sub-par ratings.

Only 25 per cent of respondents felt businesses did well, slightly below the global average of 28 per cent, the study found.

This is a reflection of how safeguarding employment has become a top priority for Singaporeans, with job security the foremost priority for businesses, said Blackbox. Singapore respondents ranked third globally in expecting job security amid the pandemic, it added.

“Economies all around the world have been dealt with a huge blow from Covid-19, and Singapore is no different. Singapore businesses continue to bear the brunt of escalating trade tensions between US and China, which has contributed to uncertainty around job security for a while now,” said Mr Black.

The study noted that across the world, the business response rated consistently lower than the political response to Covid-19. A majority of all respondents wanted better coordination between firms and governments (91 per cent) and felt that businesses should be compelled to make a minimum contribution during a crisis (82 per cent).

People will remember and support companies and brands that have helped during the crisis, said 85 per cent of respondents from all countries.

Asked how the local community or their neighbourhood responded to the crisis, 35 per cent of respondents said Singapore did well, ahead of Hong Kong (19 per cent) and Taiwan (33 per cent). The global average for this question was 37 per cent.

Positive community responses to the crisis includes actions such as helping to reduce the strain of the crisis, efforts to help the elderly and the vulnerable amid national lockdowns, and checking in with one another.

Singapore’s media received high scores for their outbreak response, scoring 92 per cent among Singapore respondents. The study did not provide a breakdown on the various types of media within Singapore, though it found that trust in “old media” during the pandemic is double that of social media globally.

[Opinion surveys such as these are meaningless, or have very limited meaning or relevance.

Note the following:

  • respondents rate their national political leaders’ response
  • 300 Singaporean respondents were selected randomly
  • Singapore had the same score as Indonesia

1) Non-standardised rating or criteria. If Singaporeans rate Singapore leaders, and Malaysians rate Malaysian leaders, and Indonesians rate Indonesian leaders, can the ratings by different raters be meaningfully compared?

If you say yes, please stop reading now and go back to whatever you were doing. 

If you are getting sceptical and are leaning towards "no", I think you got the point or are getting it.

2) Sample Size. I believe 300 respondents is on the small side or barely adequate to have a valid or generalisable finding. But then again, the fundamental purpose/intent or use of the finding is so suspect, so what if they have too small a sample size?

3) If SG scores the same as IN, what does that mean? Does it mean that SG and IN govts are EQUALLY competent? Equally effective? Competent or effective in what? Dealing with the Coronavirus? Communicating the govt's efforts? Convincing their respective citizens that their govts are competent and effective? All the survey shows is that Indonesians and Singaporeans (if the respective samples of respondents are representative of the overall population) are equally enamoured by their respective government. There may be no objective basis for this level of confidence. The respondents may have different criteria for rating their respective govts. The responses may have been coloured by pre-existing biases, prejudices, past experiences, expectations, etc. None of which may be relevant, reasonable, or material to the question.]

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