SINGAPORE - In the light of the absence of physical rallies owing to the coronavirus pandemic, GE2020 can rightly be considered Singapore's first true Internet election.
A survey has found that the Internet was the most important communication platform that shaped Singaporeans' voting decisions.
It was followed, in declining order of importance, by local television coverage, newspapers and e-rallies, as well as friends plus family and colleagues.
These were among the key findings on the Internet and the influence of information sources in the survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). They were presented at an online IPS forum on Thursday (Oct 1).
In contrast, the most influential communication channel in GE2015 was local television, followed by both print newspapers and the Internet in second place.
But for voters born after 1965, the Internet played a particularly important role in shaping their decisions. Likewise, for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
"The younger the respondent and the higher the occupational class, the more likely the Internet was important to him or her," said the IPS team of researchers.
Similarly, e-rallies were viewed as an especially important information source for voters born after 1965, those whose monthly household incomes range between $5,000 and $6,999, and those with at least post-secondary educational qualifications.
PMETs as well as service and clerical workers also feel the same way about e-rallies.
Meanwhile, mainstream media sources such as television and print newspapers were especially important for voters born before 1965, who are less educated and whose monthly household income is below $2,000.
Those who said the Internet was important in providing material that shaped their vote listed Facebook as their No. 1 source. They said the same thing in 2015.
Following Facebook were CNA, YouTube and Instagram, based on responses collected over landlines.
For the first time since 2006, when the IPS started doing these post-election surveys, data was also collected over mobile phones and the Internet instead of just relying solely on landline calls.
The new effort is to examine if there were any differences in voters' response when the same questions were posed over different platforms.
About 2,000 voters in the sample were surveyed over landlines while two groups of about 1,000 each were polled over mobile phones and the Internet.
Voters who responded via the Internet were more likely to see the fairness of government policy as an important issue that shaped how they voted, and were also less likely to say the PAP government had governed the country well since GE2015.
They also tend to view television, online rallies and the Internet as important sources of election material that shaped their decisions. In addition, they are more likely to desire political diversity and less likely to be politically conservative.
However, there were no differences in how Internet respondents rated the credibility of political parties, particularly the top three: People's Action Party, Workers' Party and Progress Singapore Party.
Dr Teo Kay Key, a post-doctoral fellow at IPS Social Lab who was part of the survey's research team, said before the online forum that Internet respondents do not rely solely on online sources for information. They also cross-reference it with offline sources, such as print media or television.
This group of people, she said, consolidate their ideas or take information from a larger range of sources, compared with respondents surveyed on mobile phones or landlines.
However, more analysis or perhaps research needs to be done to ascertain whether those who respond to online surveys on political attitudes are more inclined to pluralistic views, or whether it is because the Internet allows respondents to be more honest when answering questions, she said.