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PAP members canvassing for votes at Bukit Batok with Mr Murali at the background (Photo - Terry Xu)

Residents share thoughts on Bukit Batok by-election

Leading up to the Bukit Batok by-election that was held on 7 May, independent research firm Blackbox conducted a series of telephone interviews that revealed the sentiments of voters across the SMC.

While People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Murali Pillai won the Bukit Batok SMC seat by 61.2%, the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Chee Soon Juan captured the votes of 38.8% of residents, the highest ever for SDP in Bukit Batok. The telephone interviews conducted by Blackbox during the lead up to Polling Day gave similar results.

As part of the Blackbox survey, 302 residents of voting age participated, of which 37% were voters aged 21 to 39. The remaining 63% were voters aged 40 and above.

The results of the survey released by Blackbox noted the differences in the opinions of Bukit Batok's younger and older voters.

Firstly, voters under 40 expressed more concern for the cost of living and upgrading plans for the constituency. For voters aged 40 and above however, their main concerns were care for the elderly and health and medical issues. They also expressed greater concern for the provision of support for the disadvantaged and less well-off.

Early on in the campaigns of both parties, another issue that arose was the neighbourhood infrastructure upgrading plans.

Blackbox highlighted that younger voters were twice as likely to be of the opinion that only the PAP would be able to follow through on the planned upgrades. 47% of voters aged 21 to 39 agreed with the statement that "the upgrade spending will only happen if a PAP candidate is elected in Bukit Batok SMC" despite being told that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is non-partisan. In contrast, only 23% of voters 40 and above agreed with the statement.

Those voting for the PAP also had different opinions from those voting for the SDP with regard to the reasoning behind their respective choice.

For those leaning towards the PAP, a huge majority, 67%, of supporters cited their trust in the party as the reason for their vote for the PAP. Many also felt that Mr Murali was the better and more experienced candidate.

On the other hand, those backing the SDP did so for more opposition representation on Parliament. Dr Chee was also seen by them as the better candidate and the SDP was seen as the better party. Additionally, some opted to vote for the SDP to "send the government a message about how they are managing things" and a small number also chose to back the SDP due to the behaviour of former Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) David Ong, who was involved in an extramarital affair.

Overall, majority of voters still had a better perception of Mr Murali. 74% of the Blackbox survey participants had a positive view of Mr Murali while only 53% had a positive view of Dr Chee.

Participants were also asked how they would rate their constituency's services and infrastructure. Local schools and access to public transport garnered the highest satisfaction among residents, with 91% and 86% of residents responding that schools and public transport access respectively were either good or very good.

On the flip side, facilities for sports and the elderly were rated more poorly. While about 70% of residents found that the facilities available were good or very good, around 30% also responded such facilities were either not so good or even bad.

Nevertheless, Bukit Batok residents overall felt that in their area, they still fared either the same or better off than Singaporeans living in other constituencies across the island.