Most South-east Asians feel they have a lot in common with others from region: Survey

Singapore was the country with the lowest percentage of respondents, at 15 per cent, who said they had a very favourable opinion of Asean, below the average of 38 per cent among Asean respondents.
Singapore was the country with the lowest percentage of respondents, at 15 per cent, who said they had a very favourable opinion of Asean, below the average of 38 per cent among Asean respondents.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Most South-east Asians feel that people born and raised in the region have a lot in common, a recent survey found.

Yet, less than half of those polled identified themselves as South-east Asians, with most identifying as Asians first.

These sentiments about regional identity were among the key results of a survey conducted by Blackbox Research to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Asean regional bloc this year.

The market research company polled in October 3,040 people aged 18 and older across the 10 nations that make up the regional grouping. The sample sizes for each country were representative of the population, with 300 citizens in Singapore surveyed.

The results, published on Wednesday (Dec 20) as Singapore gets ready to take over as Asean chair next year, found that people in the region generally had a positive view of the grouping.

Almost nine in 10 respondents said they had a favourable, rather than unfavourable, opinion of Asean.

However, Singapore was the country with the lowest percentage of respondents, at 15 per cent, who said they had a very favourable opinion of Asean, below the average of 38 per cent among Asean respondents.

Despite the generally positive view of Asean, only about 53 per cent of all respondents said they felt that their countries were better off because of Asean, which was founded in 1967.

The remaining 47 per cent of respondents said they felt their countries were worse off with Asean in existence.

ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute research fellow Termsak Chalermpalanupap, commenting on Singaporeans' sentiments towards Asean, said they may not see Asean as an attractive destination, having grow up in relative prosperity compared to other countries in the region.

"Rapid economic development of Singapore makes its citizens look far beyond South-east Asia to realise their new dreams," he said.

With Singapore a more stable country compared to some other Asean member nations, Singaporeans may also take regional peace and stability for granted, without recognising the role that Asean plays in securing this, he added.

He suggested that the Government can put in more effort into "explaining the holistic importance of Asean" to change these perceptions when Singapore takes over as Asean chair next year.

The survey had also asked respondents to indicate whether they had a favourable opinion of a list of eight countries: Australia, Britain, China, India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and the United States.

Japan was viewed favourably by 91 per cent of respondents, while Singapore was viewed favourably by 87 per cent of respondents, coming in second in the list.

Singaporean respondents did not rate their own country.

The US was rated favourably by 74 per cent, while China was rated favourably by 65 per cent and India by 60 per cent of respondents.