Most Generation Z voters stamped for the Workers’ Party (WP) on Polling Day, while discontented former voters of the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), swung to the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
Voters aged 21 – 25 favoured WP the most, while a majority of the demographic aged between 25 – 59 voted for PSP.
These survey findings of voter intentions were released by the Blackbox Research on Thursday (16 Jul).
The PAP garnered most votes from those aged 60 and above. They won the General Election (GE) on 10 July with 61.2 per cent of the popular vote share, a drop of almost nine points form GE 2015.
GE 2020 was hailed as a ‘watershed’ election – a turning point in history or development that represents the beginning of a new stage of it.
But how much of this watershed was due to the maturity of political consciousness of younger voters, or the coming of age of a new generation of young voters with their pertinacious set of needs and wants?
Old Age Paternalistic Politics Paling Against a New Age Political Backdrop
Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee said younger voters in Singapore, the Millennials, support diversity in Parliament and democracy in governance.
Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996 (24 – 39 years old in 2020).
“Those aged between 25 and 35 (formed) the biggest bulge in its population pyramid in 2020,” said Prof Chan, a fellow with the Institute of Policy Studies by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, at the National University of Singapore.
A poll of voters by the Blackbox Research showed that 47 per cent of 742 respondents aligned themselves with the statement that “Singaporeans should not be giving the PAP a blank cheque”.
The findings were published after 1 July – the day of the broadcasted political debate. Jamus Lim, from the WP, was the one who made that comment.
“Clearly, (the Millennials) bought the opposition message of the need for diverse voices in Parliament and the need for checks and balances,” she said.
Former Member of Parliament (MP) Inderjit Singh said in a Facebook post on 12 July that millennials were the group who most likely voted against the PAP, and that more than half of young voters had cast their votes for the opposition.
In a post-results press-conference on 11 July, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged the message from the polls that younger voters wanted to see more “opposition presence” in Parliament.
Other surveys by the Straits Times found that young voters leaned towards the opposition due to their manifesto policies – such as the reduction in immigration.
“They will have specific personal concerns, too, in different phases of their lives. The incumbent party will have to understand this group better to win back their vote,” Prof Chan stressed.
Although there is a preconceived notion that one gets more conservative in political views with age, she found that millennials in Singapore have already shown a “distinct and increasingly liberal outlook”.
“I expect our millennials will continue to support diverse voices and an opposition in Parliament as a good thing even as they age,” she opined.
On top of Millennials, Generation X voters born between 1965 and 1980 also swung in favour of PSP in the election.
These voters would be between 40 and 55 years old this year.
“PSP was most popular among those aged 25-59, which caused the biggest vote shift,” the survey found.
When the Online Citizen Asia reached out to PSP for comments, a spokesperson said PSP’s “messages and stand resonated with (this demographic)” because “the younger generation is looking for change, a more level playing field, and free contest of ideas through constructive and rigorous debates without gutter politics”.
“We believe it is a combination of both push and pull factors that caused the swing,” the spokesperson added when asked if these voters were drawn more to PSP manifestos, or pushed away more by the PAP’s governance over the years.
In WP’s last political broadcast on 9 July, chairwoman Sylvia Lim echoed the same sentiments.
She said one of the push factors was an appetite among Singaporeans for a more conscious government, where “diverse voices are listened to and really heard, and government policies are not pre-decided and bulldozed through”.
Ms Lim asked the voters to “imagine a Singapore where the huge power imbalance that now exists with the government dominating and controlling the people is changed – and power shifts back towards our citizens”.
Elvin Ong, post-doctoral fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, affirmed this on 11 July when he noted “a significant proportion are looking for a more inclusive style of politics”.
“Voters did not succumb to the PAP’s tactics of intimidation and fear mongering. The result also reflects the changing political landscape in Singapore – that the support for the PAP is waning and unless some serious leadership rejuvenation is in place, it might see its winning margin reduced even further in the next one to two elections,” Felix Tan, associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, said.
Zoomer Generation as First-Time Voters
Prof Chan said that the younger generation, which she called the “Zoomer generation (Gen Z)”, prefers “personal narratives and ‘I feel your pain’ connectivity, approachability and authenticity”.
Gen Z consists of people born from 1997 onwards (voters aged 21 – 23 in 2020)
“WP understood this and chose youthful candidates and issues for the Zoomer generation. This online digital politics is now the new retail politics – up close and personal.”
Policies should be implemented with a “human touch”, she added.
Prof Chan considered it a “very cold implementation of policy” when politicians are too bureaucratic, preoccupied with red tapes and conscientious in being politically correct.
“It goes to the ground. We should do it intelligently with a feel of the ground,” she added.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam seemingly echoed this. He said on 11 July that a new framework is needed to take into account how young people feel about the way certain things are discussed.
Issues like race relations must go “beyond the traditional”, he stated.
One such Gen Z first-time voter, marketing executive Callista Khoo, 22, recalled WP Marine Parade Group-Representation Constituency (GRC) candidate Fadli Fawzi reciting a Malay poem which urged his audience to “light the fires in your will”.
Views that Mr Fadli’s further expressed on his Twitter account won Ms Khoo over.
His personableness made her vote for WP “because they deserve a chance for more voices in Parliament”.
“How else will voters make an informed decision about credibility if the opposition lacks the equivalent of the PAP’s opportunities and platforms to prove themselves?”
Gerald Sim, another Gen Z first-time voter at 23, said he found the PAP’s tactic of demanding WP to state its position on Sengkang GRC candidate Raeesah Khan’s Facebook posts distasteful.
“It undermines my trust in the incumbent party even more when it resorts to delivering low blows (like this) – it’s a show of political mudslinging,” he commented.
Young voters perceive the PAP’s politicking as both underhanded and high-handed.
Singaporeans seem to be “repulsed” by the competitive, mean politics of some Western democracies, Prof Chan said.
She claimed that educated and younger Singaporeans in particular “do not want to see political overkill”.