Observing Malaysian Social Media

Analysis of Support for Bersih 4 by Twitter Users in Malaysia

1. Background

On July 29th Bersih 2.0 announced that a rally entitled ‘Bersih 4’ would be held on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu from August 29th, 2pm to August 30th. The demands of the rally are for Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down and the following institutional reforms to be implemented:

  1. Clean Elections
  2. Clean Governments
  3. Saving Malaysia’s Economy
  4. Right to Dissent
  5. Strengthening Parliamentary Democracy (added on August 14th)

On August 14th Bersih released a statement adding a demand for a transitional government to be formed after Najib’s resignation. This government would need to implement 10 institutional reforms within the next 18 months to ensure the next General Election would be conducted in a clean, free and fair manner:

  1. Reform of electoral system and process
  2. Reform of the Election Commission (EC)
  3. Separation of Prime Minister and Finance Minister
  4. Parliamentary Reform
  5. Separation of the functions of Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecution
  6. Reform of the MACC
  7. Freedom of Information laws
  8. Asset declaration by Ministers and senior state officials
  9. Abolishment of/Amendment to draconian laws
  10. Establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)

On August 27th Opposition MPs from PKR, DAP and GHB released a joint statement declaring they would work with BN MPs to form a new government provided that Anwar Ibrahim and other prisoners of conscience be released; and political reforms be the core agenda of the new government.

2. Our Analysis

We performed opinion-based analysis on 385 users based in Malaysia who tweeted about Bersih 4 and related terms from July 28th – August 25th 2015. The margin of error is +/- 4.99%.

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 support by Twitter users in Malaysia for the Bersih 4 rally taking place from August 29th – August 30th in Kuala Lumpur.

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

  1. Support
  2. Neutral
  3. Don’t Support

These were further divided into the following categories:

  1. Support
  2. Support (Najib must resign)
  3. Neutral
  4. Don’t Support (general)
  5. Don’t Support (apathy)

The results are shown in the following charts.



Category Users (%)
Support 295 76.62
Neutral 17 4.42
Don’t Support 73 18.96

Individual Category Breakdown


Category Users (%)
Support 186 48.31
Support (Najib must resign) 109 28.31
Neutral 17 4.42
Don’t Support (general) 52 13.51
Don’t Support (apathy) 21 5.45

3. Findings

What follows are the findings for each category.

3.1 Support

186 users (48.31%)

These users supported the Bersih 4 rally. Many expressed interest or plans to attend. The most common reasons for support were unhappiness with the government and unhappiness with the economy.

3.2 Support (Najib must resign)

109 users (28.31%)

These users supported the Bersih 4 rally and expressed interest in Najib stepping down as Prime Minister or being arrested. As in the previous category, many expressed interest or plans to attend.

3.3 Neutral

17 users (4.42%)

These users were indifferent to the rally being held or expressed conflicted opinions.

3.4 Don’t Support (general)

52 users (13.51%)

These users did not support the Bersih 4 rally. Among the most common reasons for this were:

  • 9 users (2.34% of the total) believed that Bersih supporters were responsible for the defacing of the wall murals in Penang. They did not support this behaviour.
  • Still support UMNO/BN
  • Dislike street protests
  • Personally inconvenienced by the rally (due to work/holiday/shopping plans in the city)
  • Don’t trust Bersih (suspect hidden agenda/political influence)
  • Don’t support Bersih hijacking Merdeka Day, considered it disrespectful
  • Disliked fanaticism demonstrated by Bersih supporters online e.g. ‘You are either with us or against us’
  • Don’t support the use of street protests to bring down the government (Bersih’s demand for Najib to step down was considered equivalent to changing the government)

3.5 Don’t Support (apathy)

21 users (5.45%)

These users didn’t see the point of having a Bersih rally. Among the most common reasons for this were:

  • Previous rallies did not achieve their goals
  • The General Election is not going to be held anytime soon
  • The Opposition is weak
  • Bersih has not explained how to meet their demands (e.g. how to save the economy)

4. Additional Opinions

Users tweeting about Bersih also expressed the following opinions/sentiment on related topics. This listing was summarised based on a manual reading of a sample of 1,358 users in Malaysia, inclusive of the sample used for the above analysis.

These expressions are not indicative of their views on Bersih, but we are including it here for informative reasons.

4.1 Opinions on UMNO

  • Many users expressed opinions about UMNO (more than other parties). Praise for UMNO outweighed criticism by a small margin. A majority of pro-UMNO users were anti-Najib.
  • Less than 8% of the total users tweeting about Bersih expressed support for Najib.
  • Critics of UMNO wanted UMNO to lose in the next General Election
  • UMNO supporters (who were anti-Najib) tended to express support for Bersih because they wanted Najib to step down. A few stated they would be joining the rally.

4.2 Opinions on Opposition/DAP

  • Distrust of them in general e.g. ‘Support Bersih but don’t support DAP/Opposition’. There were PKR and DAP members expressing support for their respective parties and Bersih.
  • Criticism of the Penang state government for having a state-level Merdeka theme instead of being united. A slightly smaller number of users found it to be a non-issue for the state to have its own theme.
  • Allegations of DAP being funded by Jews were considered nonsensical. These users did not necessarily support DAP but they did not support the allegation either.
  • Some praise for DAP for being better than UMNO; for being a better choice for Malay liberals/progressives; or for being the best among the Opposition parties.
    • It is worth noting that most of this praise came from Bahasa Malaysia speakers, though there was more criticism than praise.
    • Bahasa Malaysia speakers offering praise came mainly from Selangor and KL with a few from Penang and Perlis.
    • Sepura Othman (@youngsyefura) was the most popular among Malay speakers.
  • Criticism of Opposition (all parties) for being weak
  • Did not want the Opposition influencing or taking a leadership role in Bersih
  • Whether it was praise or criticism, Opposition parties were not mentioned as much as UMNO

4.3 Concerns about Malays

These users were concerned about the Malay rights or control of the government threatened.

  • They want Najib to step down so UMNO stays in control.
  • They expressed concerns that the Opposition (primarily DAP) will weaken the position of Malays in government
  • Despite the sharing of these concerns, many users were offended by Najib stating that ‘Melayu akan terbangsat’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-bGizz6ehU). The use of the word ‘bangsat’ may have been too extreme, or anti-Najib sentiment is so strong that users will feel offended by anything he says. Offense was directed mainly towards Najib instead of UMNO.

4.4 Other Opinions

These are other opinions expressed by a minority of users.

  • Comparisons made between the shutdowns of roads for KL City Grand Prix versus the shutdown of roads due to Bersih4. These users considered the government to be unfair for blocking Bersih4 (http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-news/bersih-4-0-should-be-held-more-suitable-location-igp-70216)
  • Promotion of the Firechat mobile app to counter police jammers. This is due to a popular belief that jammers were used during Bersih3, however our own investigation at the time found no evidence of it:
    • People who were unable to get a signal within dense areas of the crowd were able to get a signal once they moved out of the crowd.
    • Photos of a vehicle with antenna alleged to be a phone jammer were popularly shared during Bersih 3 and have started being shared again.
    • However the antenna appears more similar to cellular repeaters than jammers. There is no evidence to support this belief but people are repeating it.
  • Some misinformation being spread that Bersih had sold 1.2 million t-shirts. This is the reported figure for the amount of donations received but someone had changed it to refer to t-shirts instead of ringgit. We were unable to trace when this rumour started.

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:

  • 70% Bahasa Malaysia speakers
  • 28% English speakers
  • 2% Bilingual speakers


6. Facebook Statistics

6.1 Demographics

Malaysia currently has a total population of 18 million Facebook users. There are 9.9 million men and 7.8 million women. 55% of users are male and 43% are female.

Using the same interface provided by Facebook, we are able to measure user interest in Bersih. This includes users who share Bersih-related content/news/media as well as those who ‘like’ the official Bersih 2.0 page. Interest should not be interpreted as support, but rather as awareness.

These statistics were taken on August 25th. Male and female stats do not add up to the total due to rounding issues by Facebook and possibly hidden gender details.

Some basic stats about Bersih:

  • 610,000 users aged 13 and above in Malaysia are interested in Bersih.
  • There are 380,000 men and 220,000 women.
  • 62.30% are male and 36.07% are female.
  • 3.39% of the total population of 18 million users are interested in Bersih.

6.2 Distribution by age

The table below shows the division of interest by age group. The ‘Msia %’ column shows the % distribution for that age group for Malaysia’s users. The ‘Diff from Msia’ column shows the difference in percentage points between Bersih’s age distribution and Malaysia’s age distribution.

Age Group Users % of Total Msia % Diff from Msia
13-20 81000 13.28 21.35 -8.07
21-30 290000 47.54 40.45 +7.09
31-40 150000 24.59 21.91 +2.68
41-50 52000 8.52 9.55 -1.03
>50 37000 6.07 6.74 -0.67


From this comparison we can see that Bersih has drawn increased interest from users aged 21-40, particularly users aged 21-30. Based on this and our own opinion analysis of Twitter users, we can say that university students and fresh graduates have the highest interest in Bersih.

6.3 Distribution by state

By comparing user interest by state with the current population distribution we can see how balanced interest is and whether the issue draws more attention from certain states.

The table below shows the division of Facebook user interest by state. Due to an overlap between users from both states, we have shown the combined totals for KL and Selangor. Interest in Bersih from Putrajaya users were too small to be measured. The ‘Diff from Msia’ column shows the difference in percentage points between Bersih’s state distribution and Malaysia’s state distribution.


State Total Male Female % of Total Diff from Msia
Johor 72000 45000 26000 11.80 +0.14
Kedah 30000 20000 10000 4.92 +0.25
Kelantan 23000 16000 7100 3.77 +0.44
KL + Selangor 320000 200000 120000 52.46 +3.01
Labuan 10000 6500 3900 1.64 -0.69
Melaka 22000 15000 7400 3.61 +0.44
Negeri Sembilan 24000 15000 8800 3.93 +0.38
Pahang 28000 19000 8900 4.59 +0.26
Penang 53000 33000 19000 8.69 +2.58
Perak 44000 29000 15000 7.21 +0.55
Perlis 4100 2700 1400 0.67 +0.01
Putrajaya                     –
Sabah 23000 15000 8900 3.77 -1.79
Sarawak 26000 17000 9200 4.26 -1.29
Terengganu 25000 17000 8100 4.10 +0.82


From this comparison we can see that there is increased interest primarily from users in KL and Selangor (combined) and Penang. There is reduced interest from users in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan. There is increased interest on a smaller scale in other states.

The table below shows the division of Twitter user interest by state. This is based on a sample of 9,325 users tweeting about Bersih.


State % of Total Msia % Diff from Msia
Johor 9.24 10.36 -1.12
Kedah 5.14 4.5 +0.64
Kelantan 3.18 2.7 +0.48
KL 15.5 17.25 -1.74
Labuan 0.14 0.23 -0.09
Melaka 5.14 4.34 +0.80
Negeri Sembilan 4.11 3.72 +0.39
Pahang 4.76 4.63 +0.13
Penang 4.74 4.56 +0.18
Perak 6.27 5.35 +0.92
Perlis 1.31 1.04 +0.27
Putrajaya 0.85 0.82 +0.03
Sabah 1.47 3.01 -1.54
Sarawak 1.81 3.42 -1.61
Selangor 33.28 31.35 +1.93
Terengganu 3.06 2.71 +0.35


From this comparison we can see there is reduced interest from users in Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan, Johor and KL. There is increased interest from users in other states primarily Selangor, Perak and Melaka.

Both the Facebook statistics and Twitter statistics indicate a reduced interest from East Malaysia.

7. Scale of Importance on Twitter

7.1 The scale of conversation

This network graph shows how Twitter users tweeting about Bersih and related terms from July 28th – August 25th 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.


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 1,219 most influential users as seen below:


There are 21,390 users with 39,092 connections within the unfiltered graph. The most popular users were:

  1. hafizrayyan
  2. lucaspeebo
  3. bersih2
  4. putrareformasi
  5. adrianlimcheeen
  6. 501awani
  7. malaysiakini
  8. adrianncf
  9. chelle_yesudas
  10. malaysian_gags
  11. mychangemakers
  12. pusparos
  13. kitalawan_my
  14. serikatmsiswa
  15. bongkersz
  16. ladymissazira
  17. mandeepkarpall
  18. ericpaulsen101
  19. kuasasiswa
  20. suaramtweets
  21. milosuam
  22. lawyers4liberty
  23. youngsyefura
  24. gengbebel
  25. wordsmanifest
  26. adamadli
  27. jayjaydenis
  28. aimanhkim
  29. abdmalekhussin
  30. mariachin
  31. ariffalyahya77
  32. demi_msia
  33. melissa_ms
  34. ambiga_s
  35. syahredzan
  36. najibrazak
  37. globalbersih
  38. hasbeemasputra
  39. n_izzah
  40. khairilanuar
  41. tibet18
  42. mediarakyatnet
  43. mkini_bm
  44. j4malaysia
  45. r_bangsar_utama
  46. patricklsk
  47. amirxabdhadi
  48. fadiahnadwa
  49. kbab51
  50. kerajaanrakyat2
  51. zurairi
  52. versedanggerik
  53. tm_insider
  54. dapmalaysia
  55. amuse_gueule
  56. ivyjosiah
  57. themmailonline
  58. the_mamu
  59. rafiziramli
  60. kama7esh
  61. pdrmsia
  62. sumishanaidu
  63. pojan_ismail
  64. bedlamfury
  65. iskandarfareez
  66. yinshaoloong
  67. _ashagill
  68. tianchua
  69. nelsonpung
  70. imshahidah
  71. fahmi_fadzil
  72. gmerdekarakyat
  73. fathiarisomar
  74. staronline
  75. orfeuss
  76. klubbkiddkl
  77. najwanhalimi
  78. cheanchung
  79. niknazmi
  80. ishamrais
  81. empowermalaysia
  82. panlusi
  83. baronhawk
  84. lydiaxchai
  85. justintwj
  86. jasurin
  87. myberitadaily
  88. coconutskl
  89. pisaukarat
  90. renchung
  91. shakirameer
  92. smellykatemoss
  93. aminiskandar
  94. azmizam
  95. nizambakeri
  96. zafrileusoff
  97. ruzails
  98. mpklang
  99. syazwannrahimy
  100. fatbidin

A close-up of the network most connected to Bersih2:


High connectivity between these users indicates conversations and retweets happening between them. This is effective for campaigning provided that each user has its own base of followers. If the number of shared followers is high then it becomes counter-productive as they end up preaching to the converted.

Due to the resources required we are unable to perform a follower analysis of these users to determine their actual reach.

7.2 Comparison of Interest Levels

The chart below shows the level of interest from users on Twitter for the Bersih 2, Bersih 3 and Bersih 4 rallies. The graphs have been aligned to the number of days before each event.


Interest in Bersih 4 started out strong on the day it was announced (Day -31) however interest remained low until Day -18 when rally points were announced. Online campaigning and media coverage of events related to Bersih kept the interest going as the day of the rally approaches. 27,012 users have tweeted about Bersih 4 from July 28th – August 27th 2015.

8. Conclusion

The analysis indicates that the majority of Twitter users in Malaysia tweeting about the Bersih rally were supportive with 28% of users wanting Najib to step down.

Both Facebook and Twitter are mediums that are used more by people in KL and Selangor with 49.44% of Facebook users and 48.6% of Twitter users residing in both territories.

The increased interest from users in KL and Selangor would indicate that there is a significant base of local users to attract through social media. As the main rally is in KL this would imply good turnout from locals.

The chart below shows the scale of rallies we have measured since 2007. Bersih 3 drew an estimated 72,000 people in 2012. Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat drew between 63,000 – 78,000 people in 2013. Rallies since then have steadily reduced in size.


The number of users tweeting about Bersih has not been high. In one month Bersih has drawn interest from 27,012 users on Twitter. For comparison, 58,962 users mentioned Najib Razak in one day on July 28th following the Cabinet reshuffle and removal of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin from the Cabinet.

In the week leading up to the #TangkapNajib rally on August 1st, 15,013 users tweeted the hashtag. However between 50 – 100 people showed up for the rally.

In Dec 2012 only 3.05% of Malaysia’s Facebook users were interested in Bersih. Such a low figure does not seem connected to the attendance of Bersih 3 or Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat.

This shows that social media statistics are not a good indicator of rally attendance.

During our analysis we noticed that only a few Twitter users were discussing staying overnight camping in the streets. Other users planning to attend the event only showed interest in staying in hotels. User discussions gave the impression they were treating it as a one-day event.

Based on our analysis we can expect large numbers of youth aged 21-30 to attend the rally. Whether the number of participants can beat Bersih 3’s record is an open question. Attendance may peak between 2pm – 5pm on August 29th depending on whether police action takes place.

Update (2nd September 2015)

Twitter statistics and crowd estimation of the rally are available here: https://politweet.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/twitter-statistics-and-crowd-measurement-of-the-bersih-4-rally/

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 = Support; Red markers = Don’t Support; Yellow markers = Neutral

9.1 West Malaysia


9.2 East Malaysia



Written by politweet

August 28, 2015 at 7:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on justify200.


    August 29, 2015 at 5:15 pm

  2. […] on Facebook statistics in our previous analysis (link) and tweets during the rally, Bersih attracts more interest from users in KL and Selangor compared […]

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