Politically conservative, unwilling to discuss voting plans and more interested in economic progress than democracy: That’s the picture of Myanmar painted by a major political study featuring in-depth interviews with more than 1500 people across the country.
Released yesterday, the final report from Myanmar’s first Asian Barometer Survey, conducted from May 2014 through March this year, provides a wealth of data for political pundits and prospective presidents to pick over.
The ABS, which conducted a cross-national survey in 14 East Asian countries, partnered with the Yangon School of Political Science to carry out its work in Myanmar.
Yun Han Chu, director of the ABS, said the purpose of the survey was more than the collection of important socioeconomic and political data.
“The purpose of this survey was … also to help deepen our understanding of how the political systems function, what areas might need further reform and where are the deficiencies in the eye of the public,” he said.
The research team asked 1620 different respondents more than 200 questions, with each interview taking approximately 90 minutes.
Research was conducted in 36 randomly selected townships covering all of Myanmar’s states and regions. Four teams of more than 30 surveyors were trained over an eight-month period, completing a pilot program in Bago as well as an intensive curriculum.
Bridget Welsh, the survey’s senior adviser, said that only 13 percent of attempted interviews were refused – one of the lowest refusal rates the ABS has seen in East Asia.
However, when interviews began to touch on politically sensitive questions, most Myanmar showed reserve in answering. More than half of the respondents refused to answer who they would prefer to be president, and 50 percent of respondents refused to identify their future vote choice.
Those who identified a preferred president said they supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (26 percent) over incumbent U Thein Sein (16pc) or someone else (3pc). Of those who answered the question on future vote choice, 24pc identified the National League for Democracy, 5pc the National Unity Party and 17pc the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Myanmar had the highest rate of refusing to answer questions about vote choice, organisers said.
“Who are the people who don’t answer questions? They don’t know, they haven’t decided, or they don’t want to answer. All three of these groups are represented,” Ms Welsh said.
She emphasised that the survey could not be construed as a political poll.
“This survey is a population survey. It cannot be taken exactly the same as electoral districts, so it cannot be used completely as a projection for the outcome,” she said. “Second of all, because of the number of people who did not answer the question, we still have a highly fluid situation in terms of electoral nominees.”
The survey was funded by the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.
Key findings of the Asian Barometer Survey