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Observing Malaysian Social Media

Opinion Analysis of Twitter Users in Malaysia on Muhyiddin Yassin’s Dismissal

1. Background

On July 28th 2015 a new Cabinet line-up was announced by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was absent from the new Cabinet. Zaid Hamidi replaced him for the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Mahdzir Khalid replaced him for the post of Minister of Education.

Muhyiddin being dropped from the Cabinet followed speculation that this would happen due to his remarks about 1MDB on Sunday, July 26th. He was reported to have asked for PM Najib to personally explain the 1MDB issue and answer the allegations by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) [1].

2. Our Analysis

We performed opinion-based analysis on 502 users based in Malaysia who tweeted about Muhyiddin and related terms on July 28th 2015. The margin of error is +/- 4.37%.

Users were selected based on their tweet content and activity during this period. Sampling was done per-state based on the current estimated user population.

Spammers, news agencies and accounts with automated tweets were not included in the sample.

From this dataset we analysed the individual Twitter user timelines to determine their opinion. This took their tweets, retweets and conversations into account.

Our goal was to gauge public reaction by Twitter users in Malaysia to the removal of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to see if they supported the decision.

Users who were tweeting about related topics (PM Najib; the Cabinet line-up) but not in response to Muhyiddin Yassin’s dismissal were not included in the sample. However we took note of what these users were saying for section 4 (Additional Opinions).

Based on this analysis we categorised users as belonging to one of the following categories:

  1. Positive
  2. Neutral
  3. Negative (support Muhyiddin)

These were further divided into the following categories based on which party they chose to support/criticise:

  1. Positive
  2. Neutral
  3. Negative (support Muhyiddin)
  4. Negative (support Muhyiddin, critical of Najib)
  5. Negative (support Muhyiddin, he must oppose Najib)

The results are shown in the following charts.

Summary

muhyi_sentiment_pie1

Category Users (%)
Positive 20 3.98
Neutral 42 8.37
Negative (support Muhyiddin) 440 87.65

 
Individual Category Breakdown

muhyi_sentiment_pie2

Category Users (%)
Positive 20 3.98
Neutral 42 8.37
Negative (support Muhyiddin) 195 38.84
Negative (support Muhyiddin, critical of Najib) 184 36.65
Negative (support Muhyiddin, he must oppose Najib) 61 12.15

 
3. Findings

What follows are the findings for each category.

3.1 Positive

20 users (3.98%)

These users supported Muhyiddin being dropped from the Cabinet. The most common reason for this was because they still supported Najib and his decisions. Other reasons were because Muhyiddin was not seen as a good leader; and because Cabinet members should support the PM.

3.2 Neutral

42 users (8.37%)

These users had a stated neutral stand or conflicted opinions on the issue.

3.3 Negative (support Muhyiddin)

195 users (38.84%)

These users did not support Muhyiddin being dropped from the Cabinet. Common reasons for this were:

  • Because he stood up for the people by asking Najib to answer allegations about 1MDB
  • They had hoped his pressure would provide answers about 1MDB
  • Could not see justification for his removal

There was much praise for him for being brave and honest; as well as expressions of love, respect, sadness and pity. Many users also expressed hope that he could become PM in future.

3.4 Negative (support Muhyiddin, critical of Najib)

184 users (36.65%)

These users did not support Muhyiddin being dropped from the Cabinet, and also chose to direct negative remarks towards Najib. They expressed opinions similar to the ‘Support Muhyiddin’ category as well.

The most common sentiments expressed were:

  • calls for Najib to resign
  • calling Najib a coward and expressing loss of faith/respect
  • personal insults directed towards Najib
  • calling Najib to resign to save UMNO
  • a few users called for a general election to restore confidence

Variations of the phrases, “Why Muhyiddin and not Najib” and “We want a new PM not a new DPM” were often repeated.

3.5 Negative (support Muhyiddin, he must oppose Najib)

61 users (12.15%)

These users did not support Muhyiddin being dropped from the Cabinet, and also chose to ask him to oppose Najib. They expressed opinions similar to the ‘Support Muhyiddin’ category as well.

In order of popularity, methods mentioned were:

  • Organise UMNO members/leaders to pressure Najib to resign
  • Work with Tun Mahathir to pressure Najib to step down
  • Join the Opposition. Joining PAS was the most commonly mentioned idea, followed by Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB). PKR was mentioned by a few users.
  • Continue to speak out publicly
  • Start his own party

4. Additional Opinions

Users tweeting about Muhyiddin also expressed the following opinions/sentiment on related topics. This listing was summarised based on a manual reading of a sample of 1,645 users in Malaysia, inclusive of the sample used for the above analysis.

These expressions are not indicative of their views on Muhyiddin’s dismissal, but we are including it here for informative reasons.

4.1 Comments about UMNO

We found that negative remarks were being directed mainly towards Najib and not UMNO/BN. Criticism of UMNO outweighed expressions of support by a slim margin. UMNO was criticised for maintaining a culture of ‘yes-men’ by removing Muhyiddin; and for supporting corruption.

Users also expressed concern that UMNO may split just like Pakatan Rakyat. UMNO supporters were more interested in seeing Najib removed than BN being replaced by the Opposition.

4.2 Comments about PKR and DAP

Both parties were rarely mentioned. A small number of users suggested that Muhyiddin join forces with Anwar/PKR or take over the Opposition. However a small number of users also stated that Muhyiddin must not join PKR, even users who wanted Muhyiddin to oppose Najib. When DAP was mentioned it was only to make statements such as, ‘watch out for them, they make take advantage’.

When it comes to joining the Opposition- PAS, GHB or a new party were the popular suggestions for Muhyiddin.

4.3 Islamic credentials

Users praised Muhyiddin for his Islamic credentials, which may explain why many users suggested he join PAS or GHB.

Many users also praised Muhyiddin because his wife and daughter wore hijabs (covered their aurat). We saw similar praise for Anwar Ibrahim when he was jailed in February. Comparisons were made by users between the covered women in Muhyiddin’s family and the uncovered women in Najib’s family. Some example tweets:

4.4 Additional opinions

Other opinions commonly expressed were:

  1. Criticism of Najib for retaining Ahmad Maslan as a minister
  2. Criticism of Najib because they believe he is corrupt
  3. Criticism of Najib for cost of living issues
  4. Respectfully asking Najib to provide answers to 1MDB because they still support UMNO
  5. Concerns that 1MDB probe will be delayed due to PAC members becoming ministers
  6. Comparisons of Anwar Ibrahim’s removal as DPM (2nd September 1998) to Muhyiddin’s removal
  7. Criticism of other users comparing Anwar and Muhyiddin’s removals as DPM. These users saw Muhyiddin as being fired for standing up for the people, which is not the same as Anwar’s removal.
  8. Criticism of hypocrites who suddenly started praising Muhyiddin whereas previously they said negative things about him
  9. Disapproval of the cabinet reshuffle because it was unnecessary
  10. Concerns that the education system may be revamped due to the change of the Minister of Education

5. About the Population Sample

The results reflect a young demographic, by our estimates to be between 18 – 30 years old. Users were predominantly Bahasa Malaysia speakers:

  • 83% Bahasa Malaysia speakers
  • 10% English speakers
  • 7% Bilingual speakers

muhyi_langpie

6. Scale of Importance on Twitter

6.1 Statistics and comparisons

In terms of scale, 75,351 users sent 216,164 tweets about Muhyiddin and related terms (his username and related hashtags) on July 28th. While not every mention of ‘Muhyiddin’ refers to the former Deputy Prime Minister, based on the volume and content we only expect a small percentage of tweets to be unrelated.

For comparison with recent events:

  • 52,538 users sent 140,866 tweets about Hudud from March 18th – 22nd when the Kelantan State Assembly passed the bill
  • 136,267 users sent 309,452 tweets about Lee Kuan Yew following news of his passing on March 23rd
  • 31,781 users sent 79,778 tweets about Anwar Ibrahim on February 10th, following his sentencing and incarceration in prison
  • 53,886 users sent 101,027 tweets about the floods in Kelantan on December 26th 2014

Mentions of Muhyiddin peaked at 917 tweets-per-minute (TPM) from 802 users at 2.39 pm.

When the WSJ article on Najib was released on July 3rd, mentions of Najib peaked at 152 TPM from 145 users at 3.15pm.

When Lee Kuan Yew passed away on March 23rd, TPM peaked at 770 TPM from 717 users at 4.52am.

This is the shape of the TPM graph on July 28th:

muhyi_TPM_revised_130pm_9pm

Dips in the graph were caused by some data loss as we made adjustments to the server to handle the load.

6.2 The scale of conversation

This network graph shows how Twitter users tweeting about Muhyiddin were connected. This includes all users on Twitter limited to those who retweeted or had conversations with each other. This helps visualise the scale of the conversation.

Muhyi2_July28_RTsConversations_1000px

Each user is represented by a node (circle) that is coloured based on the number of their tweets that were retweeted and the number of tweets sent to them. The more attention they receive, the larger the node. Any node that retweets another node or tweets to another node is connected.

Nodes are positioned based on their connections to other nodes – strong connections pull them closer. Large nodes are considered influential within the network. We have coloured the nodes based on a scale of blue (least influential) to green; yellow; orange; red; and purple (most influential).

Due to the scale of the graph, we can only show names from the top 620 most influential users as seen below:

Muhyi2_July28_RTsConversations_1500px_label

There are 71,891 users with 182,295 connections within the unfiltered graph. The most popular users were:

  1. hafizrayyan
  2. santaidansampah
  3. matluthfi90
  4. gengbebel
  5. 501awani
  6. khairilanuar
  7. faizfazil
  8. rizalzulkapli
  9. faktabukanauta
  10. abdmalekhussin
  11. typicalmsian
  12. udinhshm
  13. snajua
  14. azmaredzal
  15. najibrazak
  16. akmaleya
  17. ayeemjemain
  18. _hakimrahim
  19. muhyiddinyassin
  20. staronline
  21. hermyrahim
  22. farhanaafdzli
  23. bernamadotcom
  24. rosezaaa
  25. bharianmy
  26. izizree
  27. pipiyapong
  28. khabirm
  29. lucaspeebo
  30. azwanhjall
  31. fabulistjiwa
  32. iapplemustache
  33. syedattan
  34. amirfyrdaus
  35. adrianlimcheeen
  36. jack_vladamir
  37. beellasalim
  38. hmetromy
  39. syaznieafham
  40. _ahmadboii
  41. amiey_halim
  42. longfaiz
  43. nsrqnzm
  44. mazfarsyah
  45. izzmunir
  46. ainghafar
  47. raishussin
  48. themmailonline
  49. zulhafizz
  50. iloveyouipoh

7. Conclusion

The analysis indicates that 88% of Twitter users in Malaysia were not supportive of the decision to replace Muhyiddin Yassin. Additionally, 37% of users directed criticism towards Prime Minister Najib Razak and 12% wanted Muhyiddin to oppose Najib. That means 49% of the user population oppose Najib. Key observations are listed below.

7.1 Muhyiddin’s popularity was driven by 1MDB remarks

The removal of Muhyiddin provoked a greater response on Twitter than WSJ’s expose on Najib. The sudden outcry and sheer volume of users point to an increasing number of young Malay-speaking users expressing disapproval of PM Najib and wanting answers about allegations against him and 1MDB.

By removing Muhyiddin following his remarks on 1MDB, PM Najib has succeeded in elevating his status to a ‘people’s champion’. Support for Muhyiddin was primarily driven by his 1MDB remarks, which means the investigations into 1MDB need to be concluded soon.

7.2 UMNO support is still there

Most of the negative sentiment is directed towards Najib and not UMNO or BN.

A sizeable number of users want Muhyiddin to oppose Najib, but joining the Opposition was seen as a lower priority than pressuring UMNO to remove Najib. That fact combined with UMNO-related remarks we mentioned shows that support for UMNO to lead is still there.

UMNO has a base of support among the youth that they can build on. However criticism of UMNO outweighed expressions of support by a slim margin. If something isn’t done there is a risk that this base of support will reduce over time.

7.3 Opposition support is poor but anti-Najib sentiment can still work for them

Less than 12% of users wanted Muhyiddin to join the Opposition. Among the parties suggested for Muhyiddin, PAS was the leading choice followed by GHB. PKR and DAP were not viable alternatives as they were supported by too few users. More users mentioned UMNO than all the other parties combined.

The low percentage and PAS being the main choice is another indication that users are becoming more anti-Najib and not pro-Opposition. However based on remarks made, we saw indications that if Najib were to lead in the next GE it could work out badly as the youth express their anti-Najib sentiment by voting against BN.

7.4 Summary

The dominant message we see is that the youth want Najib to step down.

Key points:

  • Muhyiddin’s popularity received a boost thanks to his remarks on 1MDB
  • Negative sentiment towards Najib is increasing
  • Support for UMNO to lead is still there, but will likely erode with time
  • Support for the Opposition is poor, but will likely receive votes due to anti-Najib sentiment if Najib leads BN in GE14
  • PAS was the most preferred Opposition choice given by the youth
  • The youth want Najib to step down
  • A swift conclusion to the investigations followed by answers to the allegations should help address some of the negative sentiment

8. Popular Content

The following tweets were among the most popularly shared tweets / images on this topic.

9. Location of users

Based on geo-tagged tweets, we are able to determine where users often tweet from. This is indicative of where they spend most of their time e.g. work-place, university or residence.

Blue markers = Positive; Red markers = Negative; Yellow markers = Neutral

9.1 West Malaysia

muhyi_west_msia

9.2 East Malaysia

muhyi_east_msia

10. References

[1] Nik Anis, M. Ahmad, R. (2015, July 26) Muhyiddin: Should be the PM to tell truth on 1MDB. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2015/07/26/1mdb-muhyiddin-says-najib-should-explain-issues/

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Written by politweet

August 3, 2015 at 10:58 am

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