Media falls for skewed survey on Penang and DAP

Many questions arise from the opinion survey widely reported yesterday as showing that Umno-run mass media campaigns had succeeded in blackening the Penang state government, portraying the chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, “as a Chinese who is threatening the Malays”, and the view that PKR and PAS could not safeguard Malay interests.

(Despite the negative views reported about the DAP, Lim Guan Eng himself was said to be highly regarded by a significant number of those surveyed. Coming from a survey in largely Umno territory, that must be encouraging news for DAP supporters if not for the general overall failure in shaping perception.)

By focusing on one key area — the threat to Malay interests — the survey itself comes across as an attempt to justify Umno’s race-based agenda, and to bolster the notion that only Umno can champion Malay interests. It does not seem to be an attempt to gauge Malay voters’ perception in general

And the media, in reporting on the findings — “Malays feel Penang under Chinese rule” was one headline — merely backs up the Umno agenda.

Three main questions come to mind from the survey findings, as reported by MalaysiaKini and Malaysian Insider.

  • Are findings representative of Penang Malays as a whole or just among Malays in Umno strongholds?
  • Have the Penang state government and Pakatan Rakyat leaders in Penang done enough to project themselves and the state government?
  • Has Lim Guan Eng dominated news coverage to the extent that the state government and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders have been in his shadow?
  • Are the findings about Penang Malays or of Umno Malays?
  • The survey was carried out among residents of three Umno-held constituencies:

    • Kepala Batas, whose MP is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former prime minister, re-elected in 2008 with a sizeable though reduced majority;

    • Tasek Gelugor, whose MP is Nor Mohamed Yakcop, former finance minister, elected with a large but smaller majority than his predecessor; and

    • Bayan Lepas, whose assemblyman is Syed Amerruddin Dato’ Syed Ahmad, re-elected by just 400 votes in 2008.

    Kepala Batas and Tasek Gelugor are the only two Umno-held parliamentary constituencies in Penang. The six state constituencies under them were also won by Umno. Bayan Lepas is one of three Umno-held state seats in the Balik Pulau parliamentary constituency on the island although Balik Pulau voters narrowly elected Yusmaidi Mohd Yusof of PKR to be their MP by 780 votes.

    So these areas in general already have a strong Umno following and pro-Umno sympathies.

    The survey took place in seven state constituencies out of 40. None of the other mixed-seat constituencies or PKR-held seats was covered.

    Can their views be held to be representative of the rest of Penang Malays who live in PKR-held or DAP-held constituencies?

  • Did the Penang government leaders effectively present themselves?
  • With the mass media controlled by Umno and MCA, the state itself has to fall back on billboards, flyers, and newsletters (which sometimes can be seen uncollected by the dozen in shopping centres and other places) while the population is subjected to the barrage of anti-Pakatan and anti-DAP propaganda, plus news about organised demonstrations.

    Much of the state’s publicity efforts then rely on the local Chinese-language press. But few of the non-Chinese Pakatan officials would get much space there, and even if they did, the Malay population would not be able to read them anyway. And it adds to the perception of a “Chinese government”.

  • Did Lim Guan Eng overshadow everyone else?

As Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng gets the lion’s share of publicity. Press people also often talk of how many times he would call for a press conference, sometimes within a day. He is also prominent in national politics, such as the Sarawak state elections. (Penang voters might have felt aggrieved that their chief minister was not administering the state, for which he is paid, and instead was out on the campaign trail for his party.)

His supporters are everywhere on the Internet, attributing the state’s success to him. But where are the rest of the state administration in the news or on the Internet? Where is deputy chief minister Mansor Othman? Where is deputy chief minister Prof P Ramasamy? Where is executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow? Where is Yusmadi, the MP for Balik Pulau? Where is Tunku Aziz Ibrahim, the Senator for Penang, speaking on Penang affairs? There is very little talk about them, and they do not seem to have views on Penang.

There is a question of how active Pakatan politicians and their supporters have been in shaping perception about the state government and to what effect .

To that extent, DAP supporters in their zeal and hero-worship of their “humble, approachable, down to earth chief minister” may be to blame, too. The more often they project Lim Guan Eng alone the more likely the state government will be seen to be “a Chinese government”.

The survey findings

  • The Umno-controlled mass media succeeded in demonising the Penang government as a largely Chinese government and Lim Guan Eng “as a Chinese who is threatening the Malays”
  • The state government was seen to be a “Chinese or DAP government” rather than a Pakatan Rakyat government.
  • PKR and PAS, the junior partners in the Pakatan government, came off poorly in the survey. PKR was viewed as a multiracial party and thus incapable of helping the Malay people of Penang, while PAS was taken to be puppets of the DAP.

11 thoughts on “Media falls for skewed survey on Penang and DAP

  1. Why are the Malays blaming the Chinese for their failure in everything, including their inability to shit, their unstable faith in their religion, unable to achieve in their education this is just to name a few, Yet they are having people going round the world pleading to the immigrated Chinese Malaysians to return to serve the nation ? Why can’t they plea with the handicapped robbers from Indonesia or Umno made Malays who are also pendatang just like the Chinese Malaysians ?
    The real son of the soil are the Orang Asli (the Original People), that is what they are the Original People and that is what they were called and by who ? The Chinese Malaysians have never claimed to be the sons of the soil and they have no qualms about that plus they have never needed any legislation to protect them in their faiths. No missionaries can try to change what believe in, further more they don’t need any legislation to ensure they stay in the religion they believe in unlike the robbers. How many of these are real believers in their religion ?

    • Don’t you think that this kind of racialistic argument will only make more people feel that DAP supporters are mainly concerned with Chinese interests alone and are anti-Malay? Don’t you think that people reading your views (which have been quite consistent) will feel that PKR or Pakatan supporters are stooges of DAP, and also anti-Malay?

      Don’t you think it’s a bit stupid to keep saying “the Malays” are this and that, as if each and every Malay person thinks like that? Don’t you think that Malay people who support PAS and PKR will get fed up and think you are a mad DAP supporter when you could, in fact, be a mad or paid MCA or Gerakan supporter or even a paid Umno cybertrooper pretending to be Chinese?

      Don’t you think that people might believe that you are also a paid DAP cybertrooper just like Umno cybertroopers except in reverse? Or a paid MCA cybertrooper trying to make the DAP look bad?

      Don’t you think that people might get fed up of always hearing that Malay people are second-class to Orang Asli and that Chinese Malaysians feel second-class to Umno Malay Malaysians?

      If you have no good things to say about anybody in turn, why blame the mass media? It’s about perception, and your kind of arguments will continue to create the perception that DAP supporters are a bunch of mad Chinamen who are against all Malays. Don’t you think so?

  2. We can never get out of the race factor as long as there are race-based political parties.

    Under Koh Tsu Koon, Penang Umno leaders had no problems because they were de facto administrators. Now that their gravy train has stopped, they will create problems, even using mat rempits.

    The reason why there are so many internet supporters of Pakatan is likely to be the bias reporting by msm which made them feel the need to counter the unfair coverage. Unlike BN cybertroopers who are paid to do their work, bloggers like myself do so on our own free will. I was an election agent for DAP during the elections for the whole day voluntarily when two MCA agents who took turns sitting next to me, and were paid Rm50 each! Pakatan supporters attend ceramah at their own expense while BN supporters need to be provided transport and expenses. See the difference?

    • I applaud your convictions and voluntary efforts. The question I posed about Internet support did not question your motives. Instead I am asking about your effectiveness and asking whether these efforts have contributed towards the negative perceptions about the DAP. Also, by concentrating on Lim Guan Eng, have your efforts then pushed the others aside?

    • Sorry if I had missed the point. Sometimes, I just need to state what comes to mind when commenting.

      I might have mentioned LGE more often than others in my comments here or elsewhere, simply because he is CM and because of his position, he gets most bouquets or brickbats rather than lesser known individuals.

      I admit I am a card-carrying member of DAP but I have tried my best to dissociate myself because I wish to be able to express myself without having to worry whether I should or should not do so, especially when commenting on national matters. I do not wish to be told, ‘Who are you to comment on such matters?’ Being a nobody has the advantage of not being taken too seriously. Political correctness by those who hold important posts within a party can be so fake and predictable.

      In a way, I made a mistake of adding too many opposition politicians as friends on Facebook. I could sense the unease of some friends or relatives who are working for BN friendly parties or corporations.

      Jocelyn Tan mentioned that DAP is perceived to be anti-Malay because of its leaders’ criticisms of police and civil servants who are mainly Malays. Instead of perpetuating the misconception of people that criticisms of Umno, police and civil servants mean criticizing Malays, she should have clarified the difference between constructive and blatant racist criticisms. Does it mean that simply because most of the police or civil servants are Malays, we should refrain from criticizing them for fear of backlash? Raja Petra is known to be calling a spade a spade as far as police and civil servants are concerned, but I suppose it is alright for a Malay to criticize their own race but not non-Malays, Wouldn’t it be better if we do away with race-based parties so that we can deal with problems without involving race? Wouldn’t it be better if police and civil servants are staffed with more non-Malays so that they do not appear to be of a single race?

      Last night I was watching America’s got talent and the three judges could not decide and refused to decide between two teams of contestants, one black and one white, citing both were equally good, and decided to put both teams through to the finals. To me, it was quite obviously being politically correct!

    • It’s a tribal self-defence instinct when criticism of state institutions is viewed as criticism of Malay people or Malay leadership. It’s also cultural. But look at the impression created by opposition supporters in the comments at Mkini or MToday, they themselves create the impression that opposition people are all uncouth racist animals. (Of course then we get the other uncouth racist animals answering back.) People take sides. My side good, your side bad, my side must win, my side always right, your side always wrong. Nobody takes the people’s side, at least not party supporters. They have entrenched positions. Neither BN nor Pakatan is yet open to independent thinking or independent journalism. Pakatan supporters think anything which is anti-Barisan is independent! But if you question Pakatan policies or actions, you’ve sold out.

      Racial thinking will continue for a long time not just because of race-based parties but because of society itself and the system. Everything is Us v Them, and Us means “We Malays” or “we Chinese” or “We” whatever. The DAP is only technically a non race-based party. Perception of the DAP as a Chinese party is of its own making too: the stress on Chinese community feelings, tapping into urban Chinese discontent on an Us v Them basis, uphold Chinese culture, Chinese language, Chinese schools, speaking mainly in Mandarin, look down on Malay language, don’t wear songkok, don’t wear batik, condemn MCA and Gerakan as Malay stooges…all these add up. Sure there is Umno/BN propaganda, but I don’t see them working very hard on this. One Zairil and one Tunku Ibrahim and one Wan Hamidi isn’t going to solve this. When was the last time the DAP spoke about Malay society’s problems? Malay people don’t have problems? Or afraid of encroaching into PKR or PAS territory? Or afraid of losing Chinese support?

  3. I could not agree more with some of the points raised. There is no doubt about the motive of thisUMNO-sponsored survey – to discredit PR. In politics, which is a game of perception, all the other side needs to do is merely to suggest and poor us who are gullible because we have not reached that level of political maturity will just swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Now throw in some cudgels of racism and religion, what we gave is a lethal mix. So for LGE and gang it is time to stop the LGE bandwagon with him alone on board, while the rest are mere there to function as cheering squad. Not he alone should be seen to champion the people of Penang. The others should not be too mesmerised (and in love) by the sound of their own voice as they hoot to the whole country how well Penang has well. And there is no douobt about that, Also LGE should not hog the limelight to himself entirely. That I am sure has been an unwitting error easily corrected.

  4. In this country the media can write their news reports first and then conduct a survey to tally with their reports.
    Any survey can be doctored. Want to conduct a survey to make Rosmah the most liked/adorable woman in the country? No problem. It can be done.

    • Well, the established media generally does not work that way and I don’t remember that ever happening. But of course the owners can always ask for a survey that meets their requirements and the story follows suit.

  5. I think the minoritry races should not get involved in racist politics. If we do we would fall into UMNO’s trap. It would not be difficult for UMNO to convince and incite the malays to go against the minority races by giving the excuse that that we at racist first. When that happens, only the minority races would be the losers. But then, not all racist comments you read here are genuine. Anyone can write anything here. As an example, if I want to create animosity between chinese and indians, although I am a chinese, I can write some nonsense about chinese and sign off using an indian name. Naturally, the simple minded chinese readers would start reacting negatively toward indians. Similarly a pro umno cybertrooper can make the malays angry with DAP by writing anti-malay racist views and sign off as “DAP supporter” or whatever.

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