Observing Malaysian Social Media

Archive for April 2012

Sentiment Analysis on the Abolish PTPTN movement

Sentiment analysis was conducted on 31,639 tweets by 5,627 users regarding the abolish PTPTN movement (#mansuhPTPTN) from 5th – 21st April 2012. The majority of those who opposed abolishment cited the ethical issue of borrowing money and not repaying. An estimated 280 users (5% of total) who did not support the cause, were willing to support reducing or writing-off the interest.

Sentiment (users)

Support: 723 (12.85%)
No Opinion: 1,000 (17.78%)
Oppose: 3,904 (69.3%)

Reasons for supporting

  1. Most gave no reason for their support, other than ‘Why not?’
  2. If the govt can afford PKFZ, NFC scandal, it can afford this
  3. High cost of living makes repayment difficult
  4. PKR/PR supporters
  5. Anti-UMNO/Anti-BN sentiment
  6. Problems with converting the loan to scholarship; blacklisting too harsh; interest rate too high
Reasons for opposing

  1. Taking a loan carries the moral obligation to repay it
  2. There is a sense of pride in taking a loan and working to settle it. Write-off insults those who worked hard.
  3. The loan is converted to a scholarship for students who get good grades. Free education must be earned.
  4. Taxpayers will have to pay for it, and taxes may increase in future to support free education
  5. Why PTPTN and not other education loans too?
  6. It does not solve the problem of lack of skills,job opportunities and poor grades
  7. Poor competition if education is free.
  8. Taxpayers should not carry the burden of student living allowance, which makes up 50-80% of the loan
  9. Living allowance is spent on personal luxuries such as gadgets, motorbike,etc.
  10. Low interest rate and long repayment period is a good deal
  11. Country is not rich enough to support free education
  12. PTPTN is currently being abused as it can be taken together with other loans
  13. Bad behaviour by students – using the grave marker (batu nisan), funeral wreath on Najib Razak and Khaled Nordin’s photo was very offensive. Chants of ‘Reformasi’,’Najib-Altantuya’ and ‘Musnah Rosmah’ were seen as political and irrelevant to the cause
  14. Small number of student activists at Dataran Merdeka show their movement does not represent the majority
  15. PTPTN should be restructured instead of abolished, perhaps with alternate payment plans or change in interest

Methodology for sentiment analysis

Because Malay tweets have alternate spellings for most words, a phrase-based approach (where phrases/tweets are assigned negative/positive values)was not practical. Instead, timelines for each user containing keywords related to PTPTN were read and analysed to determine a user’s stand on the issue.

This proved to be more accurate than an automated approach because quite often a user would change his/her opinion after learning more about the issue.

Users who were retweeting very strong opinions on the issue, while offering no opinion of their own, where considered to have that opinion.

In cases where a user would tweet/retweet conflicting opinion without making their own opinion clear, the user would be categorised as having ‘No opinion’. The same applies to users who opposed the issue because they thought it was about ending scholarships, or writing-off the loan for debtors.


Users tweeting about PTPTN mostly tweeted in Malay (83.5% of tweets), and 46.3% are apolitical and do not follow politicians on Twitter. This implies that the opinions expressed are mostly by young Malays, most of whom are not interested in politics (at least on Twitter).

The initial negative feedback was due to the student activist’s focus on abolishment of PTPTN and writing-off the loan. Free education was not a widespread message even by the supporters. Some users misunderstood the issue to be an end to all scholarships, a misunderstanding that was played up by BN supporters. Users who had this misunderstanding were counted as having ‘No opinion’.

What was surprising was asking for a write-off was seen by the majority as insulting. Many users took this personally, and followed-up with an expression of pride in their ability to convert the loan due to good grades from hard work or getting a job and repaying. Some users stated that even if PTPTN were to be abolished, the loan should be repaid. Religious arguments were used as well, with expressions that demanding others to suffer (tax payers) for what you enjoyed (education) is a sin.

When supporters countered this by bringing up the govt. settlement of suits between GLCs and Tajuddin Ramli, this was not effective. Using one wrong to justify another wrong was not a good approach. The suggestion to repay the amount paid by those who settled their loans was also offensive.

It was as though the student activsts lost all credibility the moment they asked for their loan to be written-off. This potentially closed people’s minds to any future argument regarding free education or any payment plan that came after. As some users later remarked, they did not understand what the students were fighting for as free education and abolishment PTPTN were seen by many as separate issues.

The relatively small number of student activists involved in the #mansuhPTPTN march on Saturday, 14th April 2012 reflect the small number of supporters on Twitter.

When looking at the partisanship (stats to come in a future graph), 49% of opposers are apolitical, whereas 32% of supporters are apolitical. There is greater political influence on supporters from both PR and BN. Another interesting fact is that for users who exclusively follow PR politicians, 108 oppose and 107 support. Even among partisan PR supporters there is lack of agreement on this issue.

Based on the response in the real world and the Twitter, it can be said that the move to propose abolishing PTPTN was not popular. However writing off the interest or reducing it would win a lot of support from existing PTPTN debtors.

Ahmed Kamal
25th April 2012

Summary of data used

Sentiment (users)

Support: 723 (12.85%)
No Opinion: 1,000 (17.78%)
Oppose: 3,904 (69.3%)

Following politicians (users)

Political: 3,024 (53.74%)
Apolitical: 2,603 (46.26%)

Language (tweets)

Malay: 26,422 (83.51%)
English: 5,198 (16.43%)
Chinese: 19 (0.06%)

Written by politweet

April 24, 2012 at 4:00 am

The Most Retweeted Political Parties (April 2010 – March 2012)

Retweets (RT) are tweets from others that you repeat to your followers. The charts below show the number of users retweeting politicians’  tweets and the number of retweets sent, by coalition and party. Overall BN was retweeted (RT’d) less than PR, but BN was RT’d by more users.

Coalition leaders took 2nd and 3rd place among the most RT’d – @NajibRazak with 16,983 RT’s and @AnwarIbrahim with 13,750 RTs.

BN has an advantage in @KhairyKJ, who took 1st place with 21,162 RTs. His closest counterpart in PR is @LimKitSiang with 5,949 RTs.

When ranked by the number of users retweeting, the order changes slightly. 1st is @NajibRazak who was retweeted by 10,337 users; 2nd is @KhairyKJ with 8,168 users; and 3rd is @AnwarIbrahim with 5,423 users.

Only raw retweets (no comments added) were used to calculate these statistics. By retweeting a politician, a user helps to advertise a politician’s message to his/her followers. This can lead to an increase in follower count for a politician. In theory a politician who is popular will often get his/her tweets RT’d.

Ranking by users and retweets are both important for analysts. Discrepancies in ranking result in 2 situations, with these possible causes:

1)High in user rank; Low in retweet rank => cause: active follower-base; infrequent tweeting; tweets not worth retweeting

2)Low in user rank; High in retweet rank => cause: users may be retweeting in a closed or semi-closed network, and therefore not helping to grow the user-base that retweets; frequent tweeting; retweetable tweets

A large discrepancy may also indicate involvement in a hot issue. For example, Dr.Rais Yatim is no.19 when ranked by users, but no.27 when ranked by RTs. This is because his statements on the Erykah Badu concert ban were widely retweeted.

A table of Top 30 politicians for both ranking orders is included at the end of this report.

As of end of February 2012, PR had 102,134 active followers* whereas BN had 226,844 active followers. Despite the high number of retweets PR is lagging behind BN in follower growth. This could indicate a problem of ‘preaching to the converted’ or a problem with the message – something to be explored in future research.

Ahmed Kamal
3rd April 2012

*active followers = followers that had tweeted or followed/unfollowed other users in the last 3 months

Summary of data used:

Pakatan Rakyat
Total users 14598
Total retweets 81622

Barisan Nasional
Total users 20833
Total retweets 65693

PR Component Parties (name, users, retweets)

PKR 10520 47246
DAP 4970 25053
PAS 3201 9323

BN Component Parties (name, users, retweets)

UMNO 20176 59763
MCA 1235 3416
MIC 675 2480

Top 30 Most RT’d politicians, by retweets (@username, users, retweets)
1. khairykj 8168 21162
2. najibrazak 10337 16983
3. anwaribrahim 5423 13750
4. limkitsiang 1701 5949
5. mpkotabelud 1228 4368
6. mukhrizmahathir 2393 4216
7. tianchua 1430 4092
8. n_izzah 2192 4075
9. hishammuddinh2o 1256 3676
10. tonypua 1405 3666
11. hannahyeoh 1663 3293
12. niknazmi 1257 3121
13. saifuddinabd 1232 2948
14. nikabdulaziz 1453 2821
15. elizabethwong 1088 2663
16. ngakorming 539 2492
17. khalid_ibrahim 1057 2299
18. azminali 919 2257
19. pkamalanathan 609 2149
20. saifnasution 720 1944
21. drdzul 739 1836
22. syedhusinali 914 1722
23. shamsuliskandar 576 1716
24. weekasiongmp 643 1538
25. fuziah99 464 1466
26. mbnizar 688 1389
27. drraisyatim 780 1349
28. simtzetzin 516 1199
29. tantawi100 639 1160
30. cmlimguaneng 560 1128

Top 30 Most RT’d politicians, by users (@username, users, retweets)
1. najibrazak 10337 16983
2. khairykj 8168 21162
3. anwaribrahim 5423 13750
4. mukhrizmahathir 2393 4216
5. n_izzah 2192 4075
6. limkitsiang 1701 5949
7. hannahyeoh 1663 3293
8. nikabdulaziz 1453 2821
9. tianchua 1430 4092
10. tonypua 1405 3666
11. niknazmi 1257 3121
12. hishammuddinh2o 1256 3676
13. saifuddinabd 1232 2948
14. mpkotabelud 1228 4368
15. elizabethwong 1088 2663
16. khalid_ibrahim 1057 2299
17. azminali 919 2257
18. syedhusinali 914 1722
19. drraisyatim 780 1349
20. drdzul 739 1836
21. saifnasution 720 1944
22. mbnizar 688 1389
23. weekasiongmp 643 1538
24. tantawi100 639 1160
25. pkamalanathan 609 2149
26. shamsuliskandar 576 1716
27. cmlimguaneng 560 1128
28. ngakorming 539 2492
29. sivarasarasiah 536 1048
30. simtzetzin 516 1199

Written by politweet

April 3, 2012 at 3:50 am