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PACE Survey on Citizens’ Political Preferences for 2020

Executive Summary

In March 2019, PACE conducted its fifth nationwide public opinion poll, Citizens’ Political Preferences for 2020, covering 511 wards/villages in 233 townships. A total of 511 enumerators con- ducted 2,978 face-to-face interviews, including 782 in states, 544 in Yangon city and 428 in Shan state.

As the country is one and half years away from the 2020 general elections, the survey questionnaire was designed to probe citizens’ opinions or perceptions concerning the upcoming elections, such as citizens’ preferences of candidates both in past and future elections, perceptions of different political parties, and the parties that best represent their interests. Moreover, the survey also assesses citizens’ perceptions of the performance of both Union-level and state/region Hluttaws and MPs, and citizens’ perceptions of the current general situation in Myanmar. The survey also includes core questions that PACE has asked since 2015, such as citizens’ civic and political participation, their level of interest in politics, the level of interpersonal trust and trust in institutions.

Compared with the previous four surveys, there were more locations in states that PACE enumerators were unable to access to conduct interviews. Especially in Shan state, PACE could not access more than 10 locations during the fieldwork. Most of the time, the reason was an outbreak of armed conflict. There also were more locations where wards or village authorities initially did not allow PACE’s enumerators to conduct the survey. However, in coordination with PACE’s state/ region coordinators, the enumerators eventually were able to conduct the interviews in some places. However, PACE was unable to conduct interviews in some locations.

 

The following sections include a summary of the survey findings.

Civic and political participation

To probe if there was any change in the level of citizens’ interest in politics, PACE asked the same battery of questions as in previous surveys. About one third (34%) of citizens answered that they were interested in politics. Except from 2016, there was no significant change in the level of interest in politics over the last five years. To assess citizens’ associational life and the level of participation in civic and political activities, PACE asked Myanmar citizens if they were involved in different groups of civic and political activities. Out of four types of civic activities — cultural groups, sports groups, worker associations and social service groups — more than half (56%) of citizens indicated that they participated in at least in one civic activity last year. There was no significant change in the level of civic participation over the last three years. The activities with most citizen engagement were those related to social service groups/associations.

Overall, nearly half (47%) of citizens indicated that they participated in at least one political activity over the last year, a level consistent with the last three years. Among political activities, attending community gatherings to seek solutions to the problems were the most popular with citizens (32%) over the last year. As in previous years, women were less likely to report having participated in civic and political activities.

Interpersonal trust and trust in institutions

Except for 2016, when there was a post-election increase, there have been no significant changes in the level of interpersonal trust in Myanmar. About one fourth (25%) of citizens indicated that they believed peoples can be trusted and, which is similar to the 2014 level of trust (21%) mea sured by The Asia Foundation3 in 2014.

Besides the interpersonal (generalized) trust, PACE also assessed the level of trust in different political institutions, leaders and entities. Citizens had the highest level of trust in the State Counsellor (70%) and the President (69%). Facebook (18%) had the least level of trust, followed by the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) (21%). Compared with PACE’s 2016 survey,4 the level of trust in religious leaders dropped significantly from 80% (2016) to 48% (2019). Except from a few institutions, there was a high frequency of “don’t know” responses. Among those, the highest percentage of “don’t know” responses were related to the National Human Rights Commission (50%).

Perception of the current situation in Myanmar

People were more positive about the outlook in their immediate vicinity such as townships than in their states/regions or in Myanmar as a whole. While nearly half (44%) of the citizens stated that their townships were going in the right direction, only one third said the same regarding their states/regions (38%) and the country (37.3%).

Among those who expressed a positive view of the current situation in the country, citizens were most likely to credit improvements in infrastructure and government services (42%), better ad- ministration and governance (30%) and an improved economy (16%). Only 3% mentioned that rights and freedoms have improved, and less than 1% percent indicated that there is increased safety and security. Interestingly, those who indicated that the country was going in the wrong direction also pointed at weak infrastructure and government services (39%), issues with administration and governance (30%), a weak economy (17%) and issues related to peace and conflict (10%).

Performance of Hluttaws and legislators

Currently, most of Myanmar’s legislation originates in the executive branch. However, half of the citizens (50%) indicated that Parliament should be responsible for introducing and passing laws in consultation with government ministries, citizens and experts.” Only 8% supported the execu tive branch taking the lead.

However, only about one fourth to one third of citizens showed their satisfaction with the work of both Union-level and state/region Hluttaws as they carry out their fundamental tasks, with fewer people expressing satisfaction with the performance of state/region Hluttaws. However, there was a high rate of “don’t know” responses to Hluttaw-related questions.

Most citizens expected their Union-level and and state/region MPs to put more effort to understand their community issues and to ensure the quality of the development projects in their constituencies.

Political parties and their performance

The NLD (33%) was the most mentioned political party when citizens were asked to identify the party that best represented their interests and voice. However, more than half (51%) responded either “don’t know” or that no party represented their interests. In states and regions, only 18% mentioned the NLD, but it was still the most mentioned political party.

When PACE asked citizens, what was their perception of each of the six parties included in the survey, more citizens expressed positive views toward the NLD (52%) than the other five political parties (ANP, MNP, PP, SNLD and USDP). Half of the citizens responded “don’t know” when asked to rate their perception of ANP, MNP, PP and SNLD.

 

Source: People’s Alliance for Credible Elections – PACE

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