YouTube users untapped voter pool in election battle, says think-tank


KUALA LUMPUR - A growing number of Malaysians have turned to YouTube to feed their hunger for political news, a think-tank has said as it suggested this demographic group to be a significant source of untapped voters in the upcoming election.

The independent Political Studies for Change (KPRU) said it had carried out a survey on a select sample of some 26 electoral videos as well as those related to leaders from both sides of the political divide, the Malaysian Insider reported.

It found those about the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, especially from its lynchpin party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), to be pipping the Barisan Nasional (BN) and generating far more "likes" than the ruling coalition.

"KPRU believes that Malaysian technocrats have chosen YouTube as a main source of information on the political and election landscape as opposed to the mainstream media.

"This is the clear power possessed by YouTube in dissemination of ideas and news in Malaysia," the think-tank's executive director Ooi Heng said in a statement accompanying the release of its findings on Monday.

In its sample, KPRU studied the videos featuring Datuk Seri Najib Razak, such as the February clip of the prime minister at the BN's Chinese New Year charity concert in Penang, and noted that where it had gained a high volume of views, the "dislikes" recorded among YouTube users were equally high.

By contrast, videos of its electoral campaign such as "Must vote for Barisan Nasional this GE" and in the run-up, "2013 Budget: Ask Najib" where Internet users were able to participate in a question-and-answer session in real time, garnered low hits but scored high in the number of "dislikes".

Mr Najib's momentuous Google Hangout, which saw as many as 129,336 views, drew 15,153 "dislikes", said the five-year-old think-tank that said it is dedicated to political-economic research and parliamentary reform.

In comparison, clips starring Mr Najib's rival Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, such as the opposition leader's interview on the Al-Jazeera news channel, would draw a high volume of viewers with an equally high number of "likes".

The two video clips featuring Mr Anwar's Google Hangout that had been personally uploaded by the PKR adviser saw as much as 53,603 views, 307 "likes" and 82 "dislikes", KPRU said.

Videos of BN's campaign manifesto launch earlier this month has drawn only 3,050 views while PKR's video campaign focusing on women scored 27,705 views, KPRU said.

"This is a clear show of disinterest by YouTube users towards BN's manifesto," it said.

YouTube draws over one billion viewers monthly and according to KPRU, 80 per cent of Malaysian Internet users catch videos on YouTube while more than half can be considered active users on the popular video-sharing site.

Social media monitoring website Socialbaker put Malaysia's Internet penetration at 62 per cent of the country's 29 million population as of January last year. Malaysia's Facebook users number some 13 million, of whom 64 per cent are aged between 18 and 34 years.

"However, the pattern emerging from the lists cannot be ignored," KPRU said.

It noted the trend from its video research showed those featuring Mr Najib produced a lot of negative feedback from YouTube users as opposed to the positive response gained from the videos featuring PR top guns like Mr Anwar or his DAP ally Lim Guan Eng.

While the think-tank acknowledged that its sample was small and open to debate, it surmised that PKR virtually had the world in its hands compared to its political foes even though it may lose in the May 5 polls.

"In other words the technocrats have shown their support towards Keadilan and not BN.

"The final conclusion of the GE13 has the potential to rule in favour of Pakatan and disappoint BN," KPRU said.