Watan: Step up efforts to register youths, the largest bank of non-voters in Malaysia


19 September 2017, Petaling Jaya — Watan and Merdeka Center today released the results of a Public Opinion Survey: Youth Perception on the Economy, Leadership and Current Issues.

A joint project between the youth voter registration NGO and the opinion research firm, the survey was conducted between Aug 3 – 8, 2017. It involved 604 respondents between 21-30 years across all 12 states and 165 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.

Here are some key findings from the survey:

  1. Young voters largely perceive the country to be heading in the wrong direction. This view is primarily driven by how they see their own personal financial conditions.

  2. Cost of living is the single biggest concern for the 21-30 youth cohort and impacts their view of the ruling coalition’s performance. This unease explains their adverse views towards their entry into the job market, wages, and security of employment.

  3. These voters are disinterested in politics and do not trust politicians. A majority think politicians do not care about peoples' problems and that politicians are themselves the cause of many problems in the country.

  4. Majority of youth feel that people need not support government decisions that they disagree with.

  5. Almost 40% of those surveyed are not registered to vote. One half report that they did not have time to register and one in four felt voting does not make a difference.

“Perhaps this feeling of disenfranchisement is what underpins the lacklustre voter registration results since 2013,” said Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Center program director and co-founder, who presented the survey results.

There is an alarming 3.8 million eligible Malaysians who have not registered as voters as of 31 March 2017 (Q1 2017), according to Elections Commission. Out of that, two thirds are between the age of 21- 30, making this group the largest bank of non-voters in the country.

“The survey results corroborate findings from a focus group discussion carried out by Watan early this year which shows a worrying level of apathy towards registration among Malaysian youth,” said Masjaliza Hamzah, Watan executive director.

Since its launch on April 13 this year, Watan has embarked on a campaign to create a movement among Malaysian youth to be heard, inspire them to be registered, and ultimately, be counted in their votes.

Watan hopes young people will realise the importance of their voice in shaping the future of the country. Hence, Watan urges young people to step up and register to enable them to vote in the next general elections.