By Jen

I have seen a lot of bullshit surveys but the recent one claiming Singaporeans are the Happiest in Asia takes the cake for being the one with the biggest BS and a methodology that is laughable.

Eden Strategy Institute (ESI) made a flawed claim that Singaporeans are the Happiest in Asia using a survey based on what people are saying on social media. The survey tracked the use of predetermined words by users of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and online forums over a short period. The list of words includes “thank you”, “the best”, “grateful”, “hopeful” and “positive”.  ESI calculated the Happiness Index score by taking into account the social media population in each country and the number of of hits generated by a search engine when their researchers key in the predetermined words.”

Essentially, this survey was done without interviewing anyone for their views on whether they are happy or unhappy.

Using this dubious methodology, we can make many other claims I reckon – track how many times Singaporeans mention the words money, cars, housing online (which is damn often) and we may also be able to assert that Singaporeans are the Richest People in Asia! Or how about track the number of times Singaporeans mention food, food names and food locations (which again, is very often if not 3x daily) and we can claim Singaporeans are the Greediest in Asia or Singaporeans are the most Well-fed in Asia!

Wow, I didn’t know doing surveys has become so easy nowadays. No need to call/email anyone or conduct face-to-face interviews to draw conclusions about how people feel or think anymore! Just pay social media agencies like ESI to track what’s being said on social media! Easy peasy.

One also wonders how ESI came to the conclusion we are the happiest in Asia when their survey only covered five countries, namely Singapore and the other less developed countries Malaysia, the Philippines, India and Indonesia.  Whatever happened to prosperous China, zen Japan and the happening land of K-pop?

The real joke was when one of ESI directors was asked by TODAY as to how this survey gels with previous ones, such as the Gallup poll and he said his company’s survey was“more scientific” and “looks at the drivers of happiness on a much wider population”. ESI’ press release on this even claims it has created the “first scientifically-driven, independent and objective Happiness Index…”.

Scientific my foot. How is this survey more scientific than Gallup Poll which had done a survey showing Singaporeans to be the Unhappiest in Asia? ESI’s survey covered highly skewed demographics ie only social media users which tends to be younger and more tech savvy and it did not ask the opinion of a single Singaporean, let alone a living being. The Gallup poll in contrast did its survey that measured positive emotions in 148 countries compared to the incomplete set of 5 Asian countries by ESI. Plus Gallup actually asked people for their views via telephone or in-person interviews. This doesn’t mean that Gallup’s poll was flawless, but at least they attempted to do it properly.

For those who want to know more facts debunking this ESI survey, you can also read the detailed analysis done by blogger The Heart Truths.

I am curious as to why ESI did this survey. Was it prompted by someone in authority to do a survey to  counter the Gallup Poll findings? Or were they seeking a fast way of promoting their company? It’s pure conjecture of course but still, they certainly achieved fame (or infamy) for coming up with a claim that is the total opposite of what Gallup claimed, and which paints a completely different picture from all the angst and unhappiness expressed by Singaporeans over the past couple of years.

It’s interesting to note that several of the things they said in their press release on the findings were stereotypical generalities. And some of the stuff they said sounded suspiciously like political spiel which we have heard before from a certain party. On Singaporeans, ESI said: “Singapore tops the list (of Happiest nations) despite a looming perception of dissatisfaction over rising costs of living, recent infrastructure breakdowns, and the style of governance in the mass media. Any such negative sentiment appears to be voiced by a vocal minority, while the majority of Singaporeans continue to build on the Singaporean dream of self-actualisation, meritocracy, safety, and efficiency in society.”

It is funny that that ESI does not see the rich irony of the words they use in describing unhappy Singaporeans as “vocal minority” a term often used by the PAP- run government to refer to and dismiss its critics as being limited mainly to netizens. If the vocal minority = online commentators, how then can ESI assume that those netizens they tracked in this survey represent all Singaporeans? And with foreigners making up some 40% of our population currently, did they discount that large chunk from their calculations? But how can they even tell who is a local and who is not from tracking social media key words? DUH!

It is really quite surprising that after all that has been said and done there are still supposedly intelligent people out there who think Singaporeans are dumb enough to swallow unsubstantiated spin and BS.  Perhaps they should conduct a survey to check just how daft or sharp Singaporeans really are before they make further flawed assumptions and an ass of themselves.

PS: this commentary doesn’t mean Singaporeans ain’t happy people as some might be wont to conclude. We may be, and I hope we are, but it takes more than a half-baked survey to prove that we are or we are not the happiest in Asia.


This article first appeared on Jentrified Citizen.

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