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ASEAN 50th Anniversary Citizen Survey: Strong Support for ASEAN But It Lacks Identity

January 15th, 2018 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

Blackbox Research, a Singapore-based independent business and policy research consultancy, released a research paper titled ASEAN Turns 50: A Study of Southeast Asian Perceptions’ today.

ASEAN Turns 50 covers key findings from a survey conducted by Blackbox to coincide with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary. The study sought to measure how people across the region feel about ASEAN, its impact on their lives, and their desires for the Association’s future development and progress.

Conducted in October 2017, the poll of 3,040 ASEAN citizens is the first major public survey to be carried out amongst adults (aged 18 and over) across all ten ASEAN nations.

ASEAN Image Strong but Southeast Asians Are Less Certain About Its Impact

The findings show that although nearly four in five Southeast Asians (78%) have a positive view of ASEAN, only 53% believe their country is better off because of ASEAN existing and less than half say it has been a major success (47%) in the first 50 years.

Southeast Asians are also more likely to describe their feelings towards ASEAN still as one of hope (63%), rather than trust (49%), enthusiasm (32%) or affection (22%).

Commenting on the findings, David Black, Managing Director and Founder of Blackbox Research said, “People across Southeast Asia are firmly behind ASEAN but more as an abstraction. Their true emotional connection to the Association is less strong. They very much see it as a work in progress, even after 50 years and the findings show that there is still a common identity or shared purpose lacking in the region.  Indeed, only 43% of those we surveyed actually describe themselves as Southeast Asian.”

An Economic Entity More than a Political Bloc

Although the ASEAN Declaration articulates the Association’s goals of accelerating “social progress and cultural development in the region”, alongside “economic growth”, much of ASEAN’s energy is perceived to be directed towards economic progress and trade.

Key findings supporting ASEAN’s strong reputation for influencing economic development include:

  • Nearly three in four (72%) of Southeast Asians feel that economic growth should be ASEAN’s top priority over the next five years. 48% want ASEAN to prioritise defence and security, and 36% would like to see emphasis on free trade.
  • Amongst topics typically associated with ASEAN, economic growth in the region ranks top at 65%. The second most widely-associated topic was security and defence at 38%.
  • 54% of Southeast Asians define ASEAN as an ‘economic association’. 20% view ASEAN as a political grouping, and 13% perceive ASEAN as a social organisation.

David Black, Managing Director and Founder of Blackbox Research, noted again, “Southeast Asians are far more likely to enthuse about and assign ASEAN’s primary contribution as an economic one. However, they still view ASEAN’s achievements to date in very broad terms rather than being able to single out or applaud any single highlight. Looking ahead, it is clear that people are right behind the elimination of trade barriers and the improved alignment of business regulations across markets.”

Connectivity and Technology Crucial to ASEAN’s Future Progress

When asked which sectors are most likely to improve quality of living in ASEAN, three of the top five selected were technology- and connectivity-related industries. The telecommunications sector takes top spot at 53%, with information technology and technology/digital devices both ranking third at 46%. Medical, health and wellness secured second place at 50%, but scored in highest in Singapore at 65% – a country with a fast aging population.

Southeast Asians also see Google as the company best-placed to help with future economic progress in the region (58%) with Facebook coming in second at 55%, and Samsung third at 44%. Toyota, the world’s largest automotive maker with a strong manufacturing presence in the ASEAN region (esp. Indonesia and Thailand) only scored 36%.

Although the emergence of digital businesses is seen as crucial amongst Southeast Asians (ranks 3rd out of 10 sectors), at this point in time less than 10% actually associate ASEAN with the digital economy. This highlights the work ahead for Singapore, which chairs ASEAN in 2018 and has singled out the digital economy as a focal point under their chairmanship.

ASEAN and External Players

The study also examined Southeast Asian perceptions of major global economies (and their influence in the region). Southeast Asians view Japan the most favourably (91%) while India has the lowest favourability (60%) amongst major international players engaging in the region.

With the United States and China now battling for global supremacy, the U.S. still enjoys a higher favourability rating (74%) compared to China (65%) in the region.  However, Southeast Asians are four times more likely to view strong ties with China as a key ASEAN priority rather than the US (17% to 4%). More than half (61%) of all Southeast Asians also view China’s emergence as a major power to represent more of an opportunity than a threat to ASEAN.

ASEAN Turns 50

Southeast Asians Positive About ASEAN But Want To See Faster Pace In The Future

December 19th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized , White Papers and Public Research

A survey conducted by Singapore-based independent research consultancy, Blackbox Research, to coincide with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary, reveals that 78% of Southeast Asians have a positive view of ASEAN.

In the first major public survey of citizens conducted across all ten ASEAN nations, findings show that while most Southeast Asians are both positive and optimistic about ASEAN and its future, nearly 3 in 4 (74%) believe ASEAN’s future development should be faster than it has been to date.

The survey of 3040 adults (aged 18 and over) was conducted across the region in October 2017.

Some of the key findings include:

  • 78% have a positive view of ASEAN. The most positive are citizens in Laos (88%) while the least positive are Singaporeans (59%).
  • Just under half (47%) believe ASEAN has achieved major success in its first 50 years while 39% only think it has been a minor success. Indonesians and Myanmar citizens are most likely to view ASEAN as a major success (65%) while Singaporeans are the least likely (only 26%).
  • 54% of respondents view ASEAN primarily as an economic association while 20% view it first and foremost as a political association.
  • Southeast Asians in describing ASEAN are more likely to use the word ‘hope’ (63%) than ‘trust’ (49%) or ‘enthusiasm’ (33%).
  • Only 26% believe that ASEAN should continue with its current pace of development moving forwards, while 53% said it should move ‘a little faster today’ and 21% said it should move ‘much faster than today’.
  • 88% would support eventual full economic integration between ASEAN countries while 68% would even support a regional currency in the future.

Commenting on the findings, Blackbox owner and Managing Director David Black said, “The findings show that perceptions often differ between Southeast Asian nations on specific topics and issues relating to ASEAN. This reflects the diversity in the region. It is clear, however, that Southeast Asians are firmly behind ASEAN and if anything, want to see more ambition from it. The results also show that even after 50 years, ASEAN is still viewed more in terms of its potential and what it promises rather than on any specific achievements.”

Major Global Powers

The study also examined perceptions about the two major global powers (China and the US) and their influence in the region. Although Southeast Asians are largely positive about both countries, they are four times more likely to see strong ties with China as a key ASEAN priority rather than the US (17% to 4%). More than half (55%) of those surveyed also view the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as an opportunity rather than a threat to ASEAN.

Select charts can be found appended and the full findings of the study will be published in a public report in December 2017.

Perception of ASEAN Citizens - Preliminary Highlights

SG-Budget 2017: Singaporeans Call for More Support of Older PMETs

February 17th, 2017 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

SG Budget 2017 Infographic – Updated


On February 20th 2017, Singapore’s 51st Budget will be announced in Parliament by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. Exclusive Blackbox polling on the Budget shows that Singaporeans have the economy very much at the forefront of their minds. They are now increasingly worried about future job prospects for older professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). Despite satisfaction amongst the general public with future adult educational opportunities (70%) and SkillsFuture (72%), this is not translating into confidence about older professionals’ job prospects. Clearly, with tough economic times persisting, fears are rising amongst white collar professionals, who are now looking to the Government for leadership as the Singapore economy transforms.

Besides the economy, healthcare is also a clear worry for the Government: only 34% of Singaporeans are satisfied with current cost levels and only 39% are satisfied with clinic waiting times.

Further findings from Blackbox’s pre-Budget polling show:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of Singaporeans think that the priority for the 2017 Budget should be on the economy and employment opportunities, vs. 17% who think that priority should be given to healthcare, 8% on social welfare, 7% on transport, 6% on education and 4% on housing.
  • 34% of Singaporeans say that the top economic priority should be job opportunities for PMETs. Currently, 34% of Singaporeans are satisfied with job opportunities for older PMETs, vs. 41% who are satisfied with opportunities for older blue collar workers.
  • In terms of new measures required across policy areas, Singaporeans responded as follows:

  • Singaporeans also expressed their priorities in the following areas:

AI: Are Asians Ready to Embrace Non-Human Alternatives in Everyday Life?

February 7th, 2017 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

Is artificial intelligence (AI) finally about to enter our everyday reality? 

Whether it’s your home, your car, your supermarket or your local family restaurant, artificial intelligence looks set to enter our everyday lives in a big way.

As recently featured on Yahoo News Singapore, Blackbox Research has put together an exclusive white paper looking at how Asians currently feel about robots and artificial intelligence becoming part of their everyday reality, whether it be at home or in other areas of life.

Our five country regional survey found that most Asians are indeed relaxed about AI becoming part of everyday life, albeit to varying degrees across different aspects of life. Most surprising is how people across Asia have a different take on the topic, highlighting cultural differences. Of real interest, however, is how the Chinese, more than any other people are ready to embrace AI in their lives. What does this tell us about the future of employment in the country with the most number of working people globally?

Most importantly, although previously confined to the shackles of science-fiction, the conversation about AI has now shifted quite markedly from a technology discussion into a community and lifestyle discussion. As such, AI is very much a topic about life today: how much governments, communities and consumers are willing to accept when it comes to transferring ordinary, everyday responsibilities to non-human intelligence.


Singapore’s News Personality of the Year

February 3rd, 2017 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.29.09 AM

To commemorate the end of the year of the Monkey, Blackbox Research took to the streets, asking Singaporeans who they would crown the news personality of 2016. 1,000 Singaporean respondents then placed their top three picks from a list of 17 news-makers.

Having snatched Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, it comes as little surprise that 68% of Singaporeans crowned Joseph Schooling as Singapore’s 2016 news personality of the year. Aged just 21, Schooling rose to national fame as beat out his opponents – including personal idol, Michael Phelps – to a record 50.39 second win in the 100m butterfly.

Singapore’s third Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, came in second place with 58%. Already in his third term as Prime Minster, Lee continues to enjoy high popularity, and Blackbox’s findings validate this. Last year often saw Lee in the spotlight for a number of reasons: under his leadership, the Committee for the Future Economy (CFE) was launched, the bilateral agreement for a high-speed train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore was signed, and his Government rolled out Skillsfuture. The nation was also momentarily rattled by a brief health-scare during his National Day Rally speech, and the media pondered  the question of his potential future succession.

Late President S.R. Nathan took third place with 36%. The findings further highlight the nations reverence and affection for him, his place in the Nation’s heart clearly visible at the time of his passing. Showing further interest in Singapore’s political and sporting spheres, Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, took fourth place with 28%, whilst two-time gold medal Paralympian, Yip Pin Xiu, took fifth place with 26%. Trailing behind in sixth place was controversial video blogger and enfant terrible, Amos Yee at 14%. Yee is currently being held in detention in McHenry Country Adult Correctional Facility in Illinois, awaiting a court hearing on March 7th for political asylum in the United States of America.

A full review of 2016 will be released next week by Blackbox Research, detailing which areas the Government performed best and worst in over 2016, as well as taking a look at Singaporeans’ top priorities for 2017. Stay tuned for more information!

51 and Out

December 22nd, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

Blackbox Takes a Look Back on Singapore's 51st Year in 2016

bb-dec-51-v2-jpg2To commemorate the end of 2016 and Singapore’s 51st year since independence, Blackbox interviewed 51 Singaporeans aged fifty-one, asking them to tell us how they feel as Singaporeans at this moment in time. Below, we share some of their thoughts and highlights.

  • “It’s been a journey of development. 50 years is very short for a nation, but we have come so far. I have grown up with Singapore. This is a beautiful place to call home.”
  • “I was born in 1965 and feel proud and honoured to grow and develop with our nation.  For the past 51 years, Singapore has achieved so much – from a little red dot to a well-known country with good infrastructure, uncorrupt government, clean and green country, multi-racial harmony, etc.  Looking forward to the future, I sincerely hope that all Singaporeans continue to unite as a nation to maintain continued peace and prosperity for our country and face all challengers together such as terrorism.”
  • “We are a nation of hard-working pragmatists, our sights fixed upon the job in hand and the opportunities ahead.”
  • “As for the journey, I had experienced kampung living as a kid to private condominium as an adult. It won’t be possible if we do not have capable Govt. who tries to improve the life of its people and motivated and hardworking citizens who are determined to strive for the better. However, life in Singapore is getting more and more stressful. Physically, life has improved tremendously for me, but mentally, it has become more and more pressurised.”  
  • “Great as we’ve progress so well for the last 50 years & in fact, I’m as old as our nation since I’m born on 9/8/1965. Looking forward to many more great years ahead. Cheers, Singapore!”
  • “I am happy to be a Singaporean.”
  • “Singapore is doing extremely well, I will be a real happy person if I am doing as well as Singapore.”
  • “I feel proud to be a Singapore.  I am proud of my government who righteous and God fearing man and woman to govern our country.”
  • “I have seen the country of kampong to a country with high skyscraper.”
  • “Singapore has progressed from third world to first world country, even it is only just ‘a little red dot’.”
  • “I couldn’t ask for more and hope that Singapore will be in peace and harmony and won’t the target for the terrorists.”
  • “It’s very challenging in terms of political leadership, readiness and economic viability.”
  •  “Economically, we have grown from strength to strength.”
  • “Singapore has been blessed with a good government working with a pragmatic population to gain political stability, economic prosperity & social harmony in nation-building.”
  • “Not easy. Very thankful to The Late Mr Lee’s credit and also the people who had contributed.”
  • “Progress is good, however, I think the government still need to consider rewarding those older folks who have contribute a lot to the nation building of Singapore by giving them, if possible free admission to attractions, free public transport..etc”
  • “Good and bad time. Happy and sad movement. Up and down throughout 51 years.”
  • “Though we are still a very young independent country, we have much to boast about, such as the transport infrastructure, world class standard hospitals, high literacy rate etc.”

Singaporeans Think Online Gambling Exemptions Will Exacerbate Gambling Addiction

December 15th, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research


In September, Singapore’s Government decided to allow limited online betting take place. The move, a first for Singapore, would see the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) exempt Singapore-based lottery operators Singapore Pools and Singapore TurfClub from the Remote Gambling Act, which bans online and phone gambling. In a media release from MHA, the ministry commented on their reasoning for the exemptions. “A complete ban would only serve to drive remote gambling underground, making it harder to detect, and exacerbate the associated law and order, and social concerns.”

Community polling by Blackbox reveals that just under three-quarters of all Singaporeans (74%) are either opposed or strongly opposed to both online and offline gambling. In line with this, over seven in ten (76%) are concerned that the new exemptions will exacerbate gambling addiction in Singapore.

Despite their concerns, two in five Singaporeans (40%) support the new exemptions to online gambling, whilst just over one in five (21%) feel that they do not know enough about the issue. Younger Singaporeans – aged 15-24 – are more supportive of the new measures (46%) than the over 50s (36%). Just under two in five Singaporeans believe that the move will drive more visitors to casinos.

In order to be served the exemption, both Singapore Pools and Singapore TurfClub will have to put stringent safeguards in place, including age and identity verification, as well as daily spending limits. Breaches of these safeguards are punishable with fines of up to $1 million, as well as a revocation of operating license.

2015 saw the generation of $2.71 billion in betting taxes for the Nation. The Government revealed last year that Singapore’s two gambling resorts contributed between 1.5 and 2 percent of Singapore’s GDP and have created over 20,000 jobs.


Amazon SG Primed to Take a Bite out of the Local E-Commerce Market

November 23rd, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research


With its rumoured launch into Singapore planned for early 2017, e-commerce giant Amazon appears well positioned to shake up the local market. Exclusive new research from Blackbox reveals that Singaporeans – already avid online shoppers and big users of Amazon’s overseas sites – appear willing to make the switch, potentially placing many existing e-commerce players into the firing line. Those most likely to feel the heat include Qoo10, Lazada, Alibaba, Ebay, Gumtree, Fairprice and Asos.

Blackbox found that nearly nine in ten (86%) online shoppers in Singapore will likely purchase from Amazon’s new local site. With official Government estimates indicating over half of all Singaporeans are now online shoppers, the move means big business for Amazon. Blackbox’s findings show that Singaporeans would be willing to buy clothes and shoes (61%), electronics (50%), beauty and health products (43%), as well as groceries (34%) from Amazon’s Singapore-based site.

The findings pose a significant threat to existing competitors in the market, especially local, smaller sized businesses, who are may find it difficult to compete with Amazon’s deep pockets. When asked where they would shop at less given Amazon’s entry, over two in five (41%) of Qoo10’s shoppers said they would make the switch – a large chunk, given that it was found to be respondents’ preferred online shopping venue at present. Over one third of Alibaba’s customers (37%) said they would make a move, as well as 34% of Ebay’s customers, 29% of Gumtree’s customers, 23% of Asos’s customers and 19% of Fairprice’s customers.  Although the largest overall shift (59% from the US store; 49% from the UK store) will occur from Amazon’s offshore sites to its new Singapore-based one, this cannibalisation is unlikely to hurt overall global business, so long as Amazon’s local offerings are able to match up to the quality of its offshore sites.

amazon-final-1One market player everyone will be watching post Amazon’s entry is Lazada, who recently acquired online grocery retailer Redmart. With Amazon set to introduce its AmazonFresh grocery service with the 2017 launch, market analysts will be keen to see how Lazada responds to its latest threat. 35% of Lazada’s customers, as well as 16% of Redmart’s customers said they would shop less at aforementioned online stores given the launch of Amazon Singapore. Also likely to be affected is Netflix Singapore, who will now have to compete with Amazon’s Prime service, which gives premium members access to a growing library of videos and music, including original digital content, such as Jeremy Clarkson’s recently launched The Grand Tour.

Blackbox polled a nationally representative sample of n=1,000 adults between November 12th and November 21st 2016.


Brexit Blues: Is It Really All Over?

November 8th, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

PixabayLast week Thursday, the British High Court ruled that the British Parliament must vote on the invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the necessary trigger to start the UK’s two-year withdrawal process from the European Union (EU). Previously, British Prime Minister Theresa May had stated that she holds the necessary executive powers to begin the formal departure process from the EU without a parliamentary vote.

In polling conducted as part of our monthly omnibus in August earlier this year, Blackbox asked Singaporeans for their take on Brexit. It found that less than one in four Singaporeans (24%) think that UK voters’ decision to leave the EU was the right one. Additionally, nearly half of all Singaporeans (46%) believe that Brexit will have little impact on Singapore, whilst nearly one in five (19%) think it will have a positive impact, and 35% believe it will have a negative impact.

The UK Government has appealed against the High Court’s recent ruling. The case is expected to be heard by the British Supreme Court by January next year. In the meantime, May has said that she is “clear” on the matter, and expects to trigger Article 50 by March 2017.


Did Trump Just Accuse Singapore of Stealing US Jobs?

November 8th, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

PixabaySpeaking on Sunday at one of his final campaign rallies for this election season in Florida, Republican nominee Donald Trump told his supporters that countries like Singapore are taking away jobs from Americans. According to Trump, Americans are “living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world… Baxter Health Care laid off 199 workers and moved their jobs to Singapore. It’s getting worse and worse and worse.”

At the rally, Trump spoke of his plans to prevent companies from moving their workers offshore. “If a company wants to fire their workers, leave Florida, move to another country, … we will make them pay…They’re never going to leave this country. They’re never leaving. They’re never going to leave this country!”

With Singapore’s economy riding on the election result tomorrow, it comes as little surprise that Blackbox Research found Singaporeans overwhelmingly in support of Clinton in a poll commissioned and published by the leading regional newspaper, the South China Morning Post. Overall, 84% of Singaporeans said they would vote for Clinton given the chance, versus 16% for Trump. Likewise, when asked who they would rather invite over for dinner, 81% of Singaporeans favoured Clinton versus a meagre 19% who said they would prefer Trump as their house guest.

Our survey covered over 400 Singaporean adult respondents (nationally representative) and was conducted between October 12th and October 23rd 2016.