This document provides a measurement of the political party interests of Facebook users in Malaysia. This is based on public information collected from Facebook.
Some important notes to remember when interpreting Facebook figures:
- Total population refers to Facebook users aged 13 years and above.
- Potential voters refer to Facebook users aged 21 years and above.
- Youth refers to Facebook users aged 13 – 20 years.
- Gender breakdown figures do not add up to the total. This may be due to Facebook users not sharing their gender, and also due to rounding errors by Facebook when dealing with specific age groups. State breakdown figures also do not add up to the total, due to the same rounding errors.
- Figures provided by Facebook are estimates. Some inaccuracies are to be expected.
- Facebook users residing in Malaysia are not necessarily Malaysian citizens.
- Interest in a topic is equal to the number of users expressing interest in a topic.
- To measure interest we used a combination of Facebook Interests (a collection of interests, activities, groups, pages, status updates and job history identified by a common term determined by Facebook e.g. ‘United Malays National Organization’) and specific Group and Page names (e.g. Friends of BN).
- These are used to collect the number of users interested in a given party/coalition/politician/group. For example, a user mentioning a party name in a status update; sharing a news link related to the party or sharing content from a party-affiliated page would count towards the total interest in that party
- Interest in a political party does not indicate support for the party, only awareness
- It is assumed that interest in PAS includes interest in AMANAH as PAS leaders migrated to AMANAH
- Audience refers to the population of users that express interest in a topic.
- Based on our research to date, Pages that are of type ‘politician’ are not always included under related Facebook Topics. For example, not all ‘Tony Pua’ (MP, PJ Utara, DAP) Page likes are included under interest in ‘DAP’. However because Facebook does not make Topic details available we cannot easily determine which politicians, if any, were included.
- Statistics on the Opposition primarily refer to component parties of the former Pakatan Rakyat – PKR, PAS and DAP. Interest in PSM is included in total statistics for the Opposition, but is not listed separately due to its small audience.
2. Interest in Political Parties on Facebook
The following graph shows the partisanship of interest in political parties by Facebook users in Malaysia aged 21 years and above. Interest in PAS is assumed to include interest in AMANAH because Facebook has not made separate AMANAH figures available yet.
Out of 8.4 million users in Malaysia (aged 21 years and above) that are interested in BN or Opposition parties:
- 54% are male and 46% are female
- 3 million are interested in Opposition parties
- 8 million are interested in BN parties
- 76% (400 thousand) are exclusively interested in Opposition parties
- 52% (2.9 million) are interested in a mix of Opposition and BN parties
- 71% (5.1 million) are exclusively interested in BN parties
As of August 2016 the level of exclusive interest in 60.71% for BN and 4.76% for the Opposition. This is a record high for BN and a record low for the Opposition since we began tracking these statistics in December 2012.
The following graph shows the number of users interested in each party since May 2015.
- The level of interest in UMNO and DAP have a similar pattern until June 2016 when interest in DAP began to decrease. This decrease actually began in April 2016 from male users, but the drop was offset due to an increase of interest from female users.
- Interest in DAP has fallen dramatically from 4.6 million users in May 2016 to 1.1 million users in August 2016.
- May 2016 was DAP’s highest peak since April 2015, which was also 4.6 million users.
- PKR and PAS have continued to maintain a similar level of interest. PAS had higher levels than PKR from May 2016 – July 2016, but PKR has now overtaken PAS thanks to a sudden drop in August.
- PAS hit a record high of 2.3 million users in July 2016, while PKR hit a previously-recorded high of 2.2 million users in April 2016. This was the highest peak for PAS since December 2012. PKR had previously hit 2.2 million users once before in September 2014.
- MCA has maintained its lead over PAS and PKR since a surge in interest in October 2015. They are also more popular than DAP since July 2016.
The following graphs show the level of interest from potential voters for each party by gender.
- Male interest in DAP started to decline in May. This would be partly due to events in April, such as the run-up to the Sarawak state election.
- After large increases leading to a total of 1.5 million users in May and 1.8 million users in June 2016, interest in DAP from female users dropped to 500 thousand in July and subsequently 240 thousand in August 2016.
- UMNO has maintained a lead over all parties for both genders.
The following chart shows the number of Facebook users in Malaysia interested in each political party, aged 21 years and above.
This table lists the breakdown by gender. Please note that male and female figures may not add up to the total due to rounding issues with Facebook’s figures.
|Party||Male||Female||Male (%)||Female (%)||Total|
DAP’s user-base has an unusually high percentage of male users at 80.9%. This is a record high for DAP as their previous peak was 74.42% male in June 2015. On average from April 2013 – May 2016 DAP’s level of interest was 67.16% male.
When we examine the percentage of female interest since 2013, DAP has maintained a low level of interest from women since February 2015, with a spike in June 2016 but a sharp decline in August 2016 to 21.82%. This is shown in the graph below.
(Please note that we do not have data from January 2014 – March 2014)
Since October 2015, UMNO, PKR and PAS have maintained a steady level of interest from women.
4. Changes by State
The table below shows the number of potential voters on Facebook interested in each party, by state. Putrajaya could not be evaluated due to the low number of users. KL + Selangor is included as a separate category as 50% of Facebook users in Malaysia live there.
|KL + Selangor||2600000||1000000||1100000||4400000|
The change in interest by state is calculated as a change in percentage from January 2016 totals e.g. “Interest in DAP dropped by 63.04% in Kuala Lumpur” or “Interest in PKR from users in Kuala Lumpur increased by 131.25%”.
|State||DAP||PKR||PAS||UMNO||DAP Chg (%)||PKR Chg (%)||PAS Chg
|UMNO Chg (%)|
|KL + Selangor||380000||770000||670000||2900000||-85.38||-23.00||-39.09||-34.09|
- Users in all states lost interest in DAP. The worst losses are listed below:
- Selangor: -87%
- Pahang: -81%
- Negeri: Sembilan -75%
- Perak: -74%
- Johor: -73%
- Kedah: -71%
- Penang: -69%
- PKR made gains in all states except the following:
- Selangor: -44%
- Pahang: -11%
- PAS made gains in all states except the following:
- Selangor: -47%
- Pahang: -19%
- Negeri Sembilan: -10%
- Sarawak: -7%
- Perak: -1%
- UMNO made gains in all states except the following:
- Selangor: -65%
- Pahang: -16%
- The common pattern is that users in Pahang and Selangor are turning away from the major political parties. PKR, PAS and UMNO made significant gains in other states to help offset some of their losses. PAS made a net loss of 100K users while PKR and UMNO made net gains.
5. Changes by Age Group
The chart below shows Malaysia’s distribution of users by age group in August 2016.
The table below shows a comparison of interest levels by age group between December 2014 and August 2016 for DAP.
|DAP||Dec ‘14 Total||Dec ‘14 Male||Dec ‘14 Female||Aug ‘16 Total||Aug ‘16 Male||Aug ’16 Female||Total Growth (%)|
DAP’s biggest losses were from users aged 13-20 and 31-50. The user-base among 21-30 year olds has grown from 42.44% to 48.46%. This is well above the current national proportion of 39%. The chart below shows how the distribution of interest in DAP by age group has shifted over time.
The table below shows a comparison of interest levels by age group between December 2014 and August 2016 for UMNO.
|UMNO||Dec ‘14 Total||Dec ‘14 Male||Dec ‘14 Female||Aug ‘16 Total||Aug ‘16 Male||Aug ’16 Female||Total Growth (%)|
UMNO lost 9% of its users aged 13-20 since December 2014. This may be due to some users moving into the 21-30 year old group. UMNO made gains in other age groups for an overall growth rate of 37% since December 2014.
The chart below shows how the distribution of interest in UMNO by age group has shifted over time.
The proportion of UMNO’s user-base has increased among older users aged 31 and above.
Unfortunately due to the cost of data collection we do not have a detailed breakdown by age group for other political parties.
6. The Impact of a Declining Interest in DAP
The most important trend in recent months is the drop in interest in DAP and its effect on overall interest in the Opposition on Facebook. This graph shows the historical trend in Facebook interest in DAP since April 2013.
As these figures are published by Facebook, we do not know exactly what caused the recent drop. A drop in interest can be caused by any of the following:
- Deletion of user accounts. This seems unlikely in this case because there was no corresponding drop in Malaysia’s Facebook user population. It is not known whether suspended accounts have an impact on the statistics.
- Deletion of Facebook Groups/Pages that promote/publish DAP-related content
- Users un-liking Pages and leaving Groups that promote/publish DAP-related content
- Users previously posting/sharing content about DAP choosing to stop
- Users previously liking / commenting on DAP-related posts choosing to stop
- Internal adjustment by Facebook on which Pages, Groups, keywords and content contribute to the statistics for people interested in DAP
One way to identify contributing factors to an increase/decrease in interest is to examine national issues involving DAP. There is usually a delay of 1-2 months before the effect of an event can be seen in the statistics.
DAP had previously hit a peak of 4.6 million users in April 2015. This came after DAPSY (DAP Socialist Youth) cut ties with PAS Youth and Sarawak DAP and Sabah DAP cut ties with PAS . In March 2015 DAP (on a national level) also cut ties with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang .
These actions by DAP came after PAS’ push for Hudud in Kelantan, which resulted in the tabling and passing of amendments to Kelantan’s Shariah Criminal Code in March.
On June 13th 2015 the PAS Dewan Ulama Muktamar suggested that PAS cancel political cooperation with DAP . On June 16th DAP declared that Pakatan Rakyat ceased to exist . In July 2015 PAS officially cut ties with DAP . The breakup of Pakatan Rakyat is the most likely cause of the drop in interest in DAP from 4.4 million users in June 2015 to 3.9 million users in August 2015.
Starting in January 2016, DAP managed to recover their loss in interest to hit the previous peak of 4.6 million users.
During our most recent opinion analysis on Twitter users’ response to Lim Guan Eng’s corruption charges, we observed that interest in the issue was concentrated in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. Users in other states did not show much interest in the issue, which is an indication that DAP is not popular. This lack of interest was also visible between March – April 2016 when allegations against Lim Guan Eng first surfaced.
For PKR and PAS, both parties have not advanced past 2.3 million users since April 2013. DAP had passed 2.3 million users in September 2014, so by that comparison PKR and PAS have performed poorly for years. The Opposition’s strength on Facebook was highly dependent on DAP.
When the Opposition was at its strongest point it had an exclusive share of 53.96% of political interest on Facebook, in March 2013:
Today BN has an exclusive share of interest of 60.71%. The drop in interest in DAP has caused BN to gain a significant exclusive share of political interest on Facebook. This is despite the fact that DAP should have received a boost due to coverage of the Sarawak state election, two by-elections and the more recent corruption charges against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. However the statistics indicate that DAP was not a strong topic of interest.
The loss in interest from women is quite significant as well as DAP’s user-base is currently 80.9% male, an increase from 57.14% in June 2016.
PKR is now the strongest Opposition party on Facebook with only a slight lead over PAS. Both parties have a long track record of competing closely with each other so it is likely that PAS will overtake PKR again in the near future.
7. References (2015, March 19) DAPSY cuts off ties with PAS Youth in protest over hudud. The Rakyat Post. Retrieved from http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2015/03/19/dapsy-cuts-off-ties-with-pas-youth-in-protest-over-hudud/  Vanar, M. (2015, March 29) DAP told to leave PAS at national level too after Sabah, Sarawak branches sever ties. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/03/29/dap-thrown-a-bigger-challenge-party-told-to-leave-pas-at-national-level-too-after-sabah-sarawak-bran/  (2015, March 24) DAP pledges commitment to Pakatan, but ends ties with ‘dishonest’ Hadi. Malay Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/dap-pledges-commitment-to-pakatan-but-ends-ties-with-dishonest-hadi  (2015, June 15) There are parties twisting the Muktamar’s decision on PAS-DAP ties. Astro Awani. Retrieved from http://english.astroawani.com/politics-news/there-are-parties-twisting-muktamars-decision-pas-dap-ties-62428  (2015, June 16) Pakatan Rakyat ceases to exist. DAP Malaysia. Retrieved from http://dapmalaysia.org/Kenyataan-Akhbar/2015/06/16/21138/  (2015, July 11) Malaysia’s opposition PAS officially cuts ties with DAP. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-opposition-pas-officially-cuts-ties-with-dap