Popularity on social media key to attracting youth vote, says analyst

As of May 2022, there were 21,113,234 registered voters, with 1,141,749 of them (5.4%) being voters aged 18 to 20.

KUALA LUMPUR: Election candidates who are active and popular on social media have a higher chance of winning the hearts of voters, especially young people who will be voting for the first time in the 15th general election (GE15).

Political analyst Nasrudin Mohammed said it was based on the reality that social media platforms have a strong influence on these voters’ political stance.

“It is even more so when candidates play on issues that are considered sensational and attract the attention of voters. The question of true or false, genuine or fake does not seem to be the main concern of the majority of social media users,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

According to Nasrudin, youths were likely to prioritise issues that are considered sensational such as higher education, business opportunities that come with financial assistance and other incentives, as well as job opportunities.

“The age of the candidate – the younger the better – also gives an advantage to the candidate, but it also depends on some external factors, such as stature, background, locality and the political idealism shown,” he said.

In August, the Dewan Rakyat was told that, as of May 2022, there were 21,113,234 registered voters, with 1,141,749 of them (5.4%) being voters aged 18 to 20.

The Johor state election, held on March 12 this year, was the first to implement the Undia18 law that allowed youths aged 18 to 20 to cast their ballots and choose their elected representatives.

They were making their electoral debut following the passing of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 on March 19, 2021, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, and provided for automatic voter registration for all Malaysians aged 18 and above.

However, Nasrudin believes that the Johor state election was not a true reflection of the participation and influence of new young voters, and the election results did not give a clear picture of its impact on the upcoming polls.

He said the Johor state election should have recorded an increase of almost 30%, or almost 750,000 people, in the number of young voters aged between 18 and 20 who are eligible to vote, but the participation of youths in the polls did not have a real impact as a whole.

“Youths, in the Johor state election context, did not come out in droves to vote. The percentage of those who voted was very low, representing only about 6% of the total number of voters,” he added.

In addition, he said that the findings of several studies also show that youths have not shown much interest nor inclination towards matters related to politics.

“I think it is quite safe for us to say that young voters will not have a big impact on the outcome of GE15.

Nasrudin projected that the number of young voters who will go out to cast their ballot in GE15 will be low, possibly not more than 30% of those eligible.

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