We performed opinion-based analysis on 840 users based in Malaysia who tweeted about the Anwar trial verdict from February 10th 2015 – February 11th 2015.

Users were selected based on their tweet content and activity during this period. Sampling was done per-state based on the active user population during this period. Spammers, news agencies and accounts with automated tweets were not included in the sample.

From this dataset we analysed the individual Twitter user timelines to determine their opinion on the trial verdict. This took their tweets, retweets and conversations into account. Our goal was to gauge public opinion by Malaysian users on the guilty verdict.

Based on this analysis we categorised users as belonging to one of the following categories:

  1. Support/Accept Verdict
  2. Not Support/Accept Verdict
  3. Mixed – Pity Anwar/Family
  4. Mixed – Only God Knows
  5. Uncategorised (No Opinion / Other Opinions)

Mixed opinions are from users who have no clear opinion on the verdict, or share opinions with the Uncategorised group.

Uncategorised opinions are from users who have no clear opinion that matched the criteria of the other stated categories.

1. Findings

What follows are the findings for each category.

1.1 Support/Accept Verdict (142 users, 16.90%)

Users who publicly accepted or supported the verdict. The most common reasons were:

  • believed in supporting the legal process
  • believed the evidence was valid or the crime happened
  • believed that Anwar is a sodomiser / gay
  • disliked Anwar in general
  • respected or pitied Anwar but supported the legal process

1.2 Not Support/Accept Verdict (313 users, 37.26%)

Users who publicly did not support or accept the verdict. Includes users who expressed strong doubt about the judgement. The most common reasons were:

  • believed Anwar to be innocent
  • did not believe a 60+ year old man could sodomise a 20+ year old man against his will
  • saw the trial as a politically-motivated one; believed in a conspiracy
  • critical of the judges or judiciary
  • open to possibility of Anwar being guilty, but found the judgement (reasoning) or evidence to be flawed
  • disliked Anwar but found the judgement to be flawed

1.3 Mixed – Pity Anwar/Family (75 users, 8.93%)

Users who seemed undecided on the verdict, but did express sympathy for Anwar and/or his family. This includes users who expressed dislike for Anwar but felt sorry for his family. As one (paraphrased) tweet put it: “Q: Who’s the victim, Anwar or Saiful? A: Anwar’s family.”

1.4 Mixed – Only God Knows (40 users, 4.76%)

Users who commented that only God knows what happened between Anwar and Saiful. These users generally did not feel that it was their place to judge the verdict, and remained undecided.

1.5 Uncategorised (No Opinion / Other Opinions) (270 users, 32.14%)

Users who were following the trial but not offering a clear opinion on the verdict. The most common sentiments were:

  • they cannot comment on a crime they did not witness (in reference to the sodomy charge)
  • inappropriate for themselves or others to comment on the legal ruling due to lack of legal training
  • open to the possibility that the crime happened but were not convinced of Anwar’s innocence or guilt
  • disliked the ‘Rakyat Hakim Negara’ campaign (used by Anwar Ibrahim supporters), because they believed it is not the people’s place to decide
  • disliked the behaviour of PR supporters/politicians who praise the judiciary when the verdict is in their favour, but criticise and allege conspiracy when it is not
  • committed to staying on the fence
  • found Anwar to be irrelevant (in Malaysia’s politics)
  • found the trial to be irrelevant
  • indifferent to the result because it didn’t affect them

2. Additional Notes

  1. Users who were in the Support / Not Support categories may have expressed sentiments noted in the other categories. For example, users who supported the verdict and found Anwar to be irrelevant.
  2. Uncategorised and Mixed Opinion users may have supported / opposed the verdict, but there was no clear pattern in their tweets to indicate their opinion.
  3. Images of Anwar’s family members prompted expressions of sympathy from many users, even those who supported the verdict. Wan Azizah was highly praised.
  4. Expressions of homophobia were present in many users’ timelines, however that was not the focus of this analysis. Saiful Bukhari was the main target of such remarks. Users who were more interested in expressing homophobia instead of commenting on the trial were discarded from the sample. Remarks ranged from mild (jokes) to harsh (insults; calls to lock up gays and transvestites). This follows a trend that we have observed over the years, where Twitter users in Malaysia like to criticise Malay (Muslims) perceived to be ‘deviant’.

3. About the Population Sample

  1. The results reflect a young demographic, by our estimates to be between 18 – 35 years old and largely tweeting in Bahasa Malaysia.
  2. Users in Labuan, Perlis and Sabah did not talk much about the verdict, giving us a limited population to draw a sample from. This may be an indicator of low interest in Anwar Ibrahim and the trial itself from users in these states.
  3. We recorded a high percentage of users who did not support the verdict in Kedah (62.5%) and Putrajaya (62.96%). Adjusting the sample did not alter the result in a significant way. Putrajaya’s results were likely influenced by supporters of Anwar Ibrahim who were at the court house to show support.
  4. We are working on a separate analysis to determine the percentage of users tweeting about the trial during its peak period in each state on February 10th. The current national average is 22% of the active user population, however the analysis is ongoing. (Update 25th Feb 2015: Analysis is complete, please view the heatmap in Section 5)

4. Support by State

The following table lists the percentage of users for each category by state, with the uncategorised and mixed categories combined.

State Support Verdict (%) Uncategorised/Mixed (%) Not Support Verdict (%)
MY/JHR 22.5 53.75 23.75
MY/KDH 12.5 25 62.5
MY/KTN 17.86 46.43 35.71
MY/KUL 26.53 38.78 34.69
MY/LBN 0 100 0
MY/MLK 15.56 46.67 37.78
MY/NSN 13.33 60 26.67
MY/PHG 9.09 60.61 30.3
MY/PJY 7.41 29.63 62.96
MY/PLS 14.29 85.71 0
MY/PNG 3.85 46.15 50
MY/PRK 15.38 56.41 28.21
MY/SBH 0 62.5 37.5
MY/SGR 16 44.36 39.64
MY/SWK 22.73 40.91 36.36
MY/TRG 8.33 54.17 37.5


5. State-level Interest

This heatmap shows the percentage of Twitter users in Malaysia talking about the trial (not just the verdict) during the peak period from 11 AM – 3 PM (GMT+8), February 10th 2015. To generate this heatmap we collected and analysed timelines from a sample of 11.8 thousand users distributed among the states. 


State Percentage of Users
 MY/JHR 24.48
 MY/KDH 20.18
 MY/KTN 27.36
 MY/KUL 18.85
 MY/LBN 10.00
 MY/MLK 21.92
 MY/NSN 22.14
 MY/PHG 23.95
 MY/PJY 43.15
 MY/PLS 19.40
 MY/PNG 16.89
 MY/PRK 21.72
 MY/SBH 12.60
 MY/SGR 20.88
 MY/SWK 16.03
 MY/TRG 27.54


6. Conclusion

As a result of this analysis we can say that Anwar Ibrahim has retained popularity with a sizeable number of young users. Many of the users supporting him were small children during the Reformasi (1998) movement. He received sympathy and well-wishes even by those who supported the guilty verdict.  

Among Anwar Ibrahim’s supporters, sadness was the most common response to the verdict followed by disbelief. Outrage (based on tone of voice) was not commonly expressed and was largely directed at Saiful Bukhari and to a lesser extent, the judiciary. The believability of the crime (due to the age difference) was a more prominent issue than allegations of conspiracy or corruption. 

It is also clear that Pakatan Rakyat has alienated some users with their inconsistent stand on judicial rulings. The ‘Rakyat Hakim Negara’ campaign also offended many users. They believed it is not the people’s place to question the decisions of the courts or pretend to be legal experts. Religious users (from the ‘Mixed – Only God Knows’ category) had a similar unquestioning position. Getting these users interested in joining their cause may be a challenge for Pakatan Rakyat.

Less than 2% of the population directly blamed the Prime Minister, UMNO or Barisan Nasional. The verdict did not seem to trigger a strong negative response towards these parties.

Whether the trial verdict will lead to a new Reformasi movement remains to be seen. However we are tracking the ‘March 2 Freedom’ campaign launched by Anwar Ibrahim’s family members and the associated #KitaLawan campaign. You can follow this and other current Malaysian political developments on Twitter at https://www.politweet.org