Friday, October 5, 2012

Huge Opinion Polarization

Thanks to the "LIKE" and "DISLIKE" feature in Youtube (Facebook only has a "LIKE" button, Twitter has none), we probably can have a very rough idea of what the netizens think about our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. 

Image below is a print-screen of one of the many most recent Youtube videos of our Prime Minister. As you can see from the image below, out of the 59,975 views, 13,858 users rated the video, and more than 95% are negative responses (dislike).  This is not the only Najib-friendly video that get such a big proportion of negative response. Try to search the Youtube for yourself, you'll see. For the videos that make fun of him or criticize him, most get very high positive response (like). On the contrary, for the videos that are Najib-friendly, most get very high negative response (dislike). 

Can you believe that Najib approval rating across Malaysia is actually steadying in 60-70% in the opinion polls conducted by Merdeka Center? No, Merdeka Center result is not wrong, neither is the statistics in Youtube videos.  Let me explain why. 

For comparison purposes, let's first look through the Youtube videos of UK Conservative Party, Australian Labor Party and Barack Obama Youtube channels. The first two get more than 75% and Barack Obama 85% positive response for most of the videos. All of them get their Youtube "approval rating" (~75-85%) much higher than their real approval rating (~ 40-55%). This is understandable, in those countries, people who bother to view the videos are mostly followers and fence sitters, therefore the Youtube "approval rating" is skewed upward. 

In Malaysia, the reverse is true and it is reversed in very big magnitude. Our PM gets probably about 10-15% Youtube "approval rating" but more than 60% of real approval rating. In another words, in Malaysia, people who do watch videos online, do not like him, but voters in Malayisa on average, are ok with him. 

This huge opinion polarization is mainly due to different information gathering behaviour of different segments of voters in Malaysia. For example, young people who stay in urban area usually go online for news; however people who reside in the rural area, most of them obtain news from the conventional media, such as newspaper, radio or TV.

With one-sided and BN-favoring conventional media, our PM is able to achieve an average approval rating steadying at 60-70% (because the proportion of voters whose main source of information is conventional media is higher than that of internet).  This lead to Youtube vs average approval rating trend that is so different than that of the US, UK and Australia, where there are fair and equal access of information in all of the media. 

In a genuine democracy, voters should be granted fair and equal access of information as 1 of the 8 demands of Bersih. However, as you can see, state-controlled media is one of the most powerful weapons for Barisan Nasional to achieve good approval rating and stay in power. 

Will Barisan Nasional give us a genuine democracy or a false one that allows them to stay in power?