A public opinion survey which found that nearly 90 percent of those questioned believe Myanmar is heading in the right direction has also revealed serious concerns about low incomes, unemployment, a lack of aid for the farm sector and the quality of healthcare and education.
The survey of 3,000 people, interviewed throughout the country from December 24 to February 1, was conducted by the International Republican Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation funded by the United States Congress.
The results of the survey, the IRI’s first in Myanmar, were released by the institute on April 3.
The data, collected by Myanmar Survey Research on behalf of the IRI, found that 88 percent of respondents believed the country was heading in the right direction.
Those with such an opinion said it was because roads were being paved and bridges built (35 percent), economic conditions had improved (27 percent) and the rule of law had improved (10 percent).
Of the reasons given by the six percent who believed the country was heading in the wrong direction, 32 percent said it was because of poor economic conditions, 21 percent named ethnic or sectarian violence and 12 percent said there was no rule of law or transparency.
Unemployment (19 percent), ethnic or sectarian violence (16 percent), high prices (nine percent) and poverty (seven percent) were the first choices given by respondents when asked an open-ended question to name the three biggest problems facing the country.
Asked to choose from a list of 17 issues, low income and unemployment were each regarded by 79 percent of those surveyed as very serious problems, followed by insufficient support for the farm sector (76 percent), quality healthcare (75 percent), quality education (73 percent), medical access (72 percent), price increases (71 percent) and a lack of infrastructure (69 percent). Other issues regarded as being very serious were, in descending order: terrorism, corruption, the need for further democratic reforms, lack of water, crime, environment, housing, gender discrimination and ethnic or sectarian conflict.
They survey also found that 50 percent of respondents strongly agreed and 26 percent somewhat agreed that democracy may have problems but was better than any other form of government.
It found that 62 percent of respondents believed the trend towards democratisation had improved during the past year, and the same percentage believed there had been an improvement in women’s rights.
The number of respondents was equally divided between men and women aged over 18, of whom 92 percent were Buddhists, five percent were Christians, two percent were Muslims, one percent were Hindus, with the rest in the “other” category.
An overwhelming majority of respondents, 82 percent, said they would vote if parliamentary elections were held “today”.
A total of 33 percent said the parliamentary elections due to be held next year would be “very” credible and 44 percent said they would be “somewhat” credible, while 53 percent said the outcome of the 2010 election was credible, 27 percent said it was not credible, and 20 percent said they did not know or did not answer the question.
Asked to describe the economic situation, 12 percent said it was very good and 73 percent said it was good, while 40 percent said their personal economic situation had improved compared to a year ago, 45 percent said it was the same and 16 percent said it was worse.
A majority of the respondents, 57 percent, said they expected their personal economic situation to get better in the next year, 24 percent said it would remain the same, two percent said it would be worse, and 17 percent said they did not know or did not give an answer.
Asked about the performance of the national government, 20 percent said it was doing a very good job and 69 percent said it was doing a good job, with a total of five percent saying it was either doing a bad job or a very bad job, and six percent saying they did not know or declining to answer.
There was strong approval for the way President U Thein Sein was doing his job (43 percent), with 48 percent somewhat approving, while 20 per cent strongly approved of the performance of the Union Parliament, 45 percent somewhat approved, four percent somewhat disapproved, one percent strongly disapproved and 31 percent saying they did not know or declining to answer.
Asked to rate the Union government’s performance on a range of issues, infrastructure development topped the list, with 32 percent saying it was very good and 55 percent rating it as good. It was followed by such issues as the peace process (18 percent, 56 percent), water sanitation (17 percent, 57 percent), gender equality (16 percent, 62 percent), water availability (16 percent, 55 percent), ethnic-based equality (14 percent, 56 percent) and environmental preservation (14 percent, 52 percent).
The survey showed that the media, the military and opposition parties are highly regarded.
It found that 39 percent of those surveyed regarded the media very favourably (and 43 percent, favourably), followed by the military, 33 percent (51 percent), and the opposition 25 percent (45 percent).
The ruling coalition was regarded very favourably by 23 percent of respondents (and favourably by 51 percent), followed by the parliament 21 percent (47 percent), the police 18 percent (56 percent), the courts 15 percent (47 percent) and political parties, 14 percent (45 percent).
Asked if they supported the repeal of constitutional provisions banning a Myanmar from becoming president if they had married a foreigner, 54 percent said yes, 32 percent said no and 15 percent either did not know or declined to answer.
But asked: “Knowing Aung San Suu Kyi is prevented from becoming president with the current constitution, would you now support amending the constitution so that she would be able to run?”, 65 percent said yes, 21 percent said no, and the rest were in the don’t know or no response category.
The survey indicated opposition to moving towards a federal system, with 57 percent saying all power and decisions should be centralised and made by the Union government and 35 percent wanting more autonomy and power for the states and regions, with eight percent in the don’t know or no response category.
A breakdown of the responses showed that more Bamar (62 percent) favoured a centralised system than more autonomy for the states and regions (30 percent), but among non-Bamar opinions were evenly divided at 47 percent.
On corruption, a total of 75 percent said it was very or somewhat prevalent, six percent said it was not prevalent and 19 percent did not know or declined to answer.
Asked about the Union government’s efforts to fight corruption, 30 percent said they were very satisfied, 42 percent said they were somewhat satisfied, 15 percent were somewhat unsatisfied, two percent very unsatisfied and the rest in the don’t know or no response category.
Respondents were asked if they believed people in Myanmar were afraid to openly express political views and 33 percent said most were afraid, 20 percent said some were afraid, 35 percent said most were not afraid and seven percent said no one was afraid.
Asked where they were most likely to get news and information, 35 percent said radio (though it was not clear if this included short-wave radio), followed by friends and family (26 percent), television (23 percent), newspapers (eight percent), journals (two percent), the village head (two percent), and the internet and magazines (one percent each).