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Observing Malaysian Social Media

Recent Trends in Political Party Interest on Facebook in Malaysia (Aug 2016)

1. Introduction

This document provides a measurement of the political party interests of Facebook users in Malaysia. This is based on public information collected from Facebook.

Some important notes to remember when interpreting Facebook figures:

  1. Total population refers to Facebook users aged 13 years and above.
  2. Potential voters refer to Facebook users aged 21 years and above.
  3. Youth refers to Facebook users aged 13 – 20 years.
  4. Gender breakdown figures do not add up to the total. This may be due to Facebook users not sharing their gender, and also due to rounding errors by Facebook when dealing with specific age groups. State breakdown figures also do not add up to the total, due to the same rounding errors.
  5. Figures provided by Facebook are estimates. Some inaccuracies are to be expected.
  6. Facebook users residing in Malaysia are not necessarily Malaysian citizens.
  7. Interest in a topic is equal to the number of users expressing interest in a topic.
    1. To measure interest we used a combination of Facebook Interests (a collection of interests, activities, groups, pages, status updates and job history identified by a common term determined by Facebook e.g. ‘United Malays National Organization’) and specific Group and Page names (e.g. Friends of BN).
    2. These are used to collect the number of users interested in a given party/coalition/politician/group. For example, a user mentioning a party name in a status update; sharing a news link related to the party or sharing content from a party-affiliated page would count towards the total interest in that party
    3. Interest in a political party does not indicate support for the party, only awareness
    4. It is assumed that interest in PAS includes interest in AMANAH as PAS leaders migrated to AMANAH
  8. Audience refers to the population of users that express interest in a topic.
  9. Based on our research to date, Pages that are of type ‘politician’ are not always included under related Facebook Topics. For example, not all ‘Tony Pua’ (MP, PJ Utara, DAP) Page likes are included under interest in ‘DAP’. However because Facebook does not make Topic details available we cannot easily determine which politicians, if any, were included.
  10. Statistics on the Opposition primarily refer to component parties of the former Pakatan Rakyat – PKR, PAS and DAP. Interest in PSM is included in total statistics for the Opposition, but is not listed separately due to its small audience.

 

2. Interest in Political Parties on Facebook

The following graph shows the partisanship of interest in political parties by Facebook users in Malaysia aged 21 years and above. Interest in PAS is assumed to include interest in AMANAH because Facebook has not made separate AMANAH figures available yet.

FBPartisanship_Aug15_Aug16

Out of 8.4 million users in Malaysia (aged 21 years and above) that are interested in BN or Opposition parties:

  • 54% are male and 46% are female
  • 3 million are interested in Opposition parties
  • 8 million are interested in BN parties
  • 76% (400 thousand) are exclusively interested in Opposition parties
  • 52% (2.9 million) are interested in a mix of Opposition and BN parties
  • 71% (5.1 million) are exclusively interested in BN parties

As of August 2016 the level of exclusive interest in 60.71% for BN and 4.76% for the Opposition. This is a record high for BN and a record low for the Opposition since we began tracking these statistics in December 2012.

The following graph shows the number of users interested in each party since May 2015.

FBInterest_ByParty_May15_Aug16

Observations:

  • The level of interest in UMNO and DAP have a similar pattern until June 2016 when interest in DAP began to decrease. This decrease actually began in April 2016 from male users, but the drop was offset due to an increase of interest from female users.
  • Interest in DAP has fallen dramatically from 4.6 million users in May 2016 to 1.1 million users in August 2016.
  • May 2016 was DAP’s highest peak since April 2015, which was also 4.6 million users.
  • PKR and PAS have continued to maintain a similar level of interest. PAS had higher levels than PKR from May 2016 – July 2016, but PKR has now overtaken PAS thanks to a sudden drop in August.
  • PAS hit a record high of 2.3 million users in July 2016, while PKR hit a previously-recorded high of 2.2 million users in April 2016. This was the highest peak for PAS since December 2012. PKR had previously hit 2.2 million users once before in September 2014.
  • MCA has maintained its lead over PAS and PKR since a surge in interest in October 2015. They are also more popular than DAP since July 2016.

The following graphs show the level of interest from potential voters for each party by gender.

FBInterest_ByParty_May15_Aug16_Gender

Observations:

  • Male interest in DAP started to decline in May. This would be partly due to events in April, such as the run-up to the Sarawak state election.
  • After large increases leading to a total of 1.5 million users in May and 1.8 million users in June 2016, interest in DAP from female users dropped to 500 thousand in July and subsequently 240 thousand in August 2016.
  • UMNO has maintained a lead over all parties for both genders.

The following chart shows the number of Facebook users in Malaysia interested in each political party, aged 21 years and above.

FBInterest_ByParty_TotalColumnChart

This table lists the breakdown by gender. Please note that male and female figures may not add up to the total due to rounding issues with Facebook’s figures.

Party Male Female Male (%) Female (%) Total
DAP 890,000 240,000 80.90 21.82 1,100,000
PKR 1,100,000 660,000 61.11 36.67 1,800,000
PAS 970,000 610,000 60.63 38.13 1,600,000
UMNO 3,600,000 3,200,000 52.94 47.06 6,800,000
GERAKAN 500,000 270,000 64.94 35.06 770,000
MCA 1,500,000 1,100,000 57.69 42.31 2,600,000
MIC 100,000 40,000 71.43 28.57 140,000

 

DAP’s user-base has an unusually high percentage of male users at 80.9%. This is a record high for DAP as their previous peak was 74.42% male in June 2015. On average from April 2013 – May 2016 DAP’s level of interest was 67.16% male.

When we examine the percentage of female interest since 2013, DAP has maintained a low level of interest from women since February 2015, with a spike in June 2016 but a sharp decline in August 2016 to 21.82%. This is shown in the graph below.

FBInterest_FemalePerc_Aug2016

(Please note that we do not have data from January 2014 – March 2014)

Since October 2015, UMNO, PKR and PAS have maintained a steady level of interest from women.

4. Changes by State

The table below shows the number of potential voters on Facebook interested in each party, by state. Putrajaya could not be evaluated due to the low number of users. KL + Selangor is included as a separate category as 50% of Facebook users in Malaysia live there.

January 2016

State DAP PKR PAS UMNO
KL 460000 160000 140000 650000
Johor 520000 170000 140000 730000
Penang 240000 92000 65000 290000
Melaka 110000 45000 47000 200000
Pahang 180000 76000 95000 320000
Terengganu 79000 53000 95000 230000
Perak 240000 87000 94000 370000
Perlis 14000 8200 11000 34000
Kedah 170000 81000 99000 330000
Kelantan 59000 39000 77000 160000
Sarawak 220000 59000 41000 280000
Sabah 140000 63000 50000 300000
Negeri Sembilan 110000 44000 48000 200000
Selangor 2200000 900000 1000000 4000000
Labuan 42000 14000 10000 69000
KL + Selangor 2600000 1000000 1100000 4400000
Malaysia 4100000 1600000 1700000 6800000

 

 

August 2016

The change in interest by state is calculated as a change in percentage from January 2016 totals e.g. “Interest in DAP dropped by 63.04% in Kuala Lumpur” or “Interest in PKR from users in Kuala Lumpur increased by 131.25%”.

State DAP PKR PAS UMNO DAP Chg (%) PKR Chg (%) PAS Chg
(%)
UMNO Chg (%)
KL 170000 370000 320000 1600000 -63.04 131.25 128.57 146.15
Johor 140000 180000 140000 770000 -73.08 5.88 0.00 5.48
Penang 74000 140000 79000 330000 -69.17 52.17 21.54 13.79
Melaka 37000 54000 48000 200000 -66.36 20.00 2.13 0.00
Pahang 35000 68000 77000 270000 -80.56 -10.53 -18.95 -15.63
Terengganu 34000 80000 100000 280000 -56.96 50.94 5.26 21.74
Perak 63000 110000 93000 370000 -73.75 26.44 -1.06 0.00
Perlis 5900 12000 13000 44000 -57.86 46.34 18.18 29.41
Kedah 50000 98000 102000 340000 -70.59 20.99 3.03 3.03
Kelantan 29000 75000 120000 260000 -50.85 92.31 55.84 62.50
Sarawak 150000 64000 38000 300000 -31.82 8.47 -7.32 7.14
Sabah 66000 80000 55000 430000 -52.86 26.98 10.00 43.33
Negeri Sembilan 28000 44000 43000 200000 -74.55 0.00 -10.42 0.00
Selangor 290000 500000 530000 1400000 -86.82 -44.44 -47.00 -65.00
Labuan 39000 29000 19000 140000 -7.14 107.14 90.00 102.90
KL + Selangor 380000 770000 670000 2900000 -85.38 -23.00 -39.09 -34.09
Malaysia 1100000 1800000 1600000 6800000 -73.17 12.50 -5.88 0.00

 

Observations:

  • Users in all states lost interest in DAP. The worst losses are listed below:
    • Selangor: -87%
    • Pahang: -81%
    • Negeri: Sembilan -75%
    • Perak: -74%
    • Johor: -73%
    • Kedah: -71%
    • Penang: -69%
  • PKR made gains in all states except the following:
    • Selangor: -44%
    • Pahang: -11%
  • PAS made gains in all states except the following:
    • Selangor: -47%
    • Pahang: -19%
    • Negeri Sembilan: -10%
    • Sarawak: -7%
    • Perak: -1%
  • UMNO made gains in all states except the following:
    • Selangor: -65%
    • Pahang: -16%
  • The common pattern is that users in Pahang and Selangor are turning away from the major political parties. PKR, PAS and UMNO made significant gains in other states to help offset some of their losses. PAS made a net loss of 100K users while PKR and UMNO made net gains.

5. Changes by Age Group

The chart below shows Malaysia’s distribution of users by age group in August 2016.

FB_MalaysiaPopPie

The table below shows a comparison of interest levels by age group between December 2014 and August 2016 for DAP.

DAP Dec ‘14 Total Dec ‘14 Male Dec ‘14 Female Aug ‘16 Total Aug ‘16 Male Aug ’16 Female Total Growth (%)
13-20 620000 340000 280000 160000 120000 43000 -74.19
21-30 1460000 860000 600000 630000 480000 150000 -56.85
31-40 820000 500000 320000 280000 230000 50000 -65.85
41-50 340000 200000 132000 120000 95000 21000 -64.71
>50 200000 134000 74000 110000 85000 21000 -45.00
Total 3440000 2034000 1406000 1300000 1010000 285000 -62.21

 

DAP’s biggest losses were from users aged 13-20 and 31-50. The user-base among 21-30 year olds has grown from 42.44% to 48.46%. This is well above the current national proportion of 39%. The chart below shows how the distribution of interest in DAP by age group has shifted over time.

FB_DapAgeGroup_Distro

The table below shows a comparison of interest levels by age group between December 2014 and August 2016 for UMNO.

UMNO Dec ‘14 Total Dec ‘14 Male Dec ‘14 Female Aug ‘16 Total Aug ‘16 Male Aug ’16 Female Total Growth (%)
13-20 1320000 700000 620000 1200000 650000 510000 -9.09
21-30 2600000 1360000 1160000 3300000 1800000 1600000 26.92
31-40 1220000 660000 540000 2000000 1000000 960000 63.93
41-50 420000 240000 186000 900000 460000 430000 114.29
>50 240000 150000 86000 570000 330000 240000 137.50
Total 5800000 3110000 2592000 7970000 4240000 3740000 37.41

 

UMNO lost 9% of its users aged 13-20 since December 2014. This may be due to some users moving into the 21-30 year old group. UMNO made gains in other age groups for an overall growth rate of 37% since December 2014.

The chart below shows how the distribution of interest in UMNO by age group has shifted over time.

FB_UMNO_AgeGroupDistro

The proportion of UMNO’s user-base has increased among older users aged 31 and above.

Unfortunately due to the cost of data collection we do not have a detailed breakdown by age group for other political parties.

6. The Impact of a Declining Interest in DAP

The most important trend in recent months is the drop in interest in DAP and its effect on overall interest in the Opposition on Facebook. This graph shows the historical trend in Facebook interest in DAP since April 2013.

FBInterest_DAPHistory_Apr13_Aug16

As these figures are published by Facebook, we do not know exactly what caused the recent drop. A drop in interest can be caused by any of the following:

  • Deletion of user accounts. This seems unlikely in this case because there was no corresponding drop in Malaysia’s Facebook user population. It is not known whether suspended accounts have an impact on the statistics.
  • Deletion of Facebook Groups/Pages that promote/publish DAP-related content
  • Users un-liking Pages and leaving Groups that promote/publish DAP-related content
  • Users previously posting/sharing content about DAP choosing to stop
  • Users previously liking / commenting on DAP-related posts choosing to stop
  • Internal adjustment by Facebook on which Pages, Groups, keywords and content contribute to the statistics for people interested in DAP

One way to identify contributing factors to an increase/decrease in interest is to examine national issues involving DAP. There is usually a delay of 1-2 months before the effect of an event can be seen in the statistics.

DAP had previously hit a peak of 4.6 million users in April 2015. This came after DAPSY (DAP Socialist Youth) cut ties with PAS Youth and Sarawak DAP and Sabah DAP cut ties with PAS [1][2]. In March 2015 DAP (on a national level) also cut ties with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang [3].

These actions by DAP came after PAS’ push for Hudud in Kelantan, which resulted in the tabling and passing of amendments to Kelantan’s Shariah Criminal Code in March.

On June 13th 2015 the PAS Dewan Ulama Muktamar suggested that PAS cancel political cooperation with DAP [4]. On June 16th DAP declared that Pakatan Rakyat ceased to exist [5]. In July 2015 PAS officially cut ties with DAP [6]. The breakup of Pakatan Rakyat is the most likely cause of the drop in interest in DAP from 4.4 million users in June 2015 to 3.9 million users in August 2015.

Starting in January 2016, DAP managed to recover their loss in interest to hit the previous peak of 4.6 million users.

During our most recent opinion analysis on Twitter users’ response to Lim Guan Eng’s corruption charges, we observed that interest in the issue was concentrated in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. Users in other states did not show much interest in the issue, which is an indication that DAP is not popular. This lack of interest was also visible between March – April 2016 when allegations against Lim Guan Eng first surfaced.

For PKR and PAS, both parties have not advanced past 2.3 million users since April 2013. DAP had passed 2.3 million users in September 2014, so by that comparison PKR and PAS have performed poorly for years. The Opposition’s strength on Facebook was highly dependent on DAP.

When the Opposition was at its strongest point it had an exclusive share of 53.96% of political interest on Facebook, in March 2013:

FBPartisanship_Dec12_Dec13

Today BN has an exclusive share of interest of 60.71%. The drop in interest in DAP has caused BN to gain a significant exclusive share of political interest on Facebook. This is despite the fact that DAP should have received a boost due to coverage of the Sarawak state election, two by-elections and the more recent corruption charges against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. However the statistics indicate that DAP was not a strong topic of interest.

The loss in interest from women is quite significant as well as DAP’s user-base is currently 80.9% male, an increase from 57.14% in June 2016.

Since April 2013 DAP was the strongest Opposition party on Facebook in terms of user interest. DAP is now the weakest Opposition party on Facebook compared to PKR and PAS, and will likely face challenges getting their message across on Facebook.

PKR is now the strongest Opposition party on Facebook with only a slight lead over PAS. Both parties have a long track record of competing closely with each other so it is likely that PAS will overtake PKR again in the near future.

7. References

[1] (2015, March 19) DAPSY cuts off ties with PAS Youth in protest over hudud. The Rakyat Post. Retrieved from http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2015/03/19/dapsy-cuts-off-ties-with-pas-youth-in-protest-over-hudud/

[2] Vanar, M. (2015, March 29) DAP told to leave PAS at national level too after Sabah, Sarawak branches sever ties. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/03/29/dap-thrown-a-bigger-challenge-party-told-to-leave-pas-at-national-level-too-after-sabah-sarawak-bran/

[3] (2015, March 24) DAP pledges commitment to Pakatan, but ends ties with ‘dishonest’ Hadi. Malay Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/dap-pledges-commitment-to-pakatan-but-ends-ties-with-dishonest-hadi

[4] (2015, June 15) There are parties twisting the Muktamar’s decision on PAS-DAP ties. Astro Awani. Retrieved from http://english.astroawani.com/politics-news/there-are-parties-twisting-muktamars-decision-pas-dap-ties-62428

[5] (2015, June 16) Pakatan Rakyat ceases to exist. DAP Malaysia. Retrieved from http://dapmalaysia.org/Kenyataan-Akhbar/2015/06/16/21138/

[6] (2015, July 11) Malaysia’s opposition PAS officially cuts ties with DAP. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-opposition-pas-officially-cuts-ties-with-dap

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Written by politweet

September 1, 2016 at 9:44 am

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