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The Merdeka Center and The Asia Foundation Release Nationwide Survey of Youth Perceptions in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, November 29, 2007 — As Malaysian voters face general elections in the coming months, its youngest constituents feel that elections are important but that there is little people can do to hold government accountable between elections, as reported in a nationwide poll released today. The opinion poll, National Youth Survey 2007, was conducted by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research – the nation’s foremost independent polling institution – in cooperation with The Asia Foundation to gauge youth perceptions of politics, current issues, democracy, and their own levels of civic and social involvement.

The poll’s findings will inform policymakers, politicians, and grassroots advocacy groups as they address young voters’ needs as well as guide civic education efforts ahead of the upcoming election. This is the second time in two years that the Foundation and Merdeka have partnered on a poll to measure the attitudes of youth voters, providing a side-by-side comparison of 2007 with results from 2006 on important concerns like crime, employment, elections, and the economy.

“As this is the second time we have conducted this poll, the data helps Malaysian voters and policymakers understand the needs of young voters and address their concerns based on factual findings. These young voters will shape Malaysia’s future so it is critical that we look at their attitudes towards their role in the community and in politics,” said Ibrahim Suffian, director of the Merdeka Center.

While the majority of young voters, 94%, feel that voting in elections is important, 52% think there is little they can do to hold government accountable between elections.

Results reveal that ethnicity contributes to significant differences in Malaysian youth perspectives. For instance, the majority of the ethnic Malay, Indian, and non-Muslim Bumiputera feel they are free to speak what they think, while Chinese respondents disagree at 50%. When asked if Malaysians are treated equally by the government, the majority of Malay and non-Muslim Bumiputera agree, but 59% of Chinese and 58% of Indians disagree. 53% of young people do not wish to be involved with politics, with findings being significantly higher among ethnic Chinese and Indian respondents at 75% and 68%, respectively.

As in the 2006 poll, the respondents – structured along the national population profile and specifically proportional to gender, ethnicity, and state of residence – answered questions detailing their news consumption, membership in groups, political awareness, and interpretations of democracy.

“Conducted within the framework of the Foundation’s commitment to increased citizen participation and responsive governance, both the 2006 and 2007 polls offer important baseline information and allow individuals to gauge their views against those of their fellow citizens,” said Anthea Mulakala, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Malaysia.

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,508 randomly selected Malaysians between 20 and 35 years old was conducted between August 8 and September 1, 2007 and was funded by The Asia Foundation with support from the Netherlands Embassy. In addition to the questions asked in the main survey, expanded polling was done in both Sabah and Sarawak to a broader segment of voters. Detailed findings from Sabah and Sarawak will be released at upcoming events in December.

The full results of the survey are available to download from both the Merdeka Center’s website and The Asia Foundation’s website.

About the Merdeka Center

Merdeka Center was formally established in 2001 as an independent organization focused on public opinion research and socio-economic analysis. Its members are comprised of social scientists and professionals with qualifications in economics, communications, marketing, and law. Merdeka’s mission is to act as a bridge between Malaysians and the leading members of their society – by collecting public opinion and expressing them through survey results, analysis and position papers. For more information, please visit www.merdeka.org.

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