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29/07/2015
Society, Blackbox Briefings

Singapore’s Institutions: How Confident Are We?

How does Singapore community sentiment compare with Americans?

Confidence in social institutions is crucial in any successful society. When confidence ebbs, this is often a tell-tale sign that the larger community is at odds with those who govern and lead them.

A look at confidence levels in U.S. institutions amongst Americans reveals the extent to which national confidence has eroded in that country. Recent findings show that only a third of Americans have confidence in the presidency and even less have confidence in the Supreme Court, banks, newspapers and the criminal justice system.[1]

So what about Singapore? How much do Singaporeans really trust in their institutions? We asked 1,000 Singaporean citizens and PRs how confident they were in nineteen (19) Singapore institutions which enjoy a high profile and are, arguably, crucial to Singapore civil society.

The first thing to observe about Singapore’s results is that Singaporeans by and large have much greater confidence in their institutions than do Americans. Confidence levels in Singapore institutions ranges from 86% to 56% while in the U.S., institutional confidence runs from 72% (for the military) to under 10% (for the current U.S. Congress).

Secondly, a key local finding is the fact that Singapore institutions that have come in for recent public (and social media) criticism actually score lower indicating a correlation between poor public image and public confidence.

Finally, although there is virtually no gender difference with respect to institutional confidence, there are some age differences. Our analysis shows:

 

  • Singaporeans aged 50 and above have less confidence in the Government, the police and online news than younger Singaporeans.

 

  • Singaporeans under 25 actually have, on average, greater confidence in Singapore’s institutions.

 

  • Confidence in the public transport system is lower amongst 25-34 year olds.

 

Amongst the so-called ‘sandwich class’ (middle income earners), it is also worth noting that confidence in public transport, the public childcare system, education and CPF is generally lower than amongst lower or upper income households.

Summarizing our findings with respect to Singapore institutions, results show the following:

 

Figure 1: Confidence Levels in Singapore Institutions

Institutions Scoring Above 80% Institutions Scoring Above 70%
 

·       Singapore banks

·       SAF

 

·       Health system

·       Police

·       Local universities

·       Criminal justice system

·       Singapore Government

             Institutions Scoring 60-70%             Institutions Scoring Below 60%
 

·       Singapore Parliament

·       NTUC

·       HDB

·       Public school system

·       Local newspapers

·       Local TV shows

·       CPF

 

 

·       Public child care

·       Local Town Councils

·       Public transport system

·       The Stock Exchange (SGX)

·       Local online news

 

As in the U.S., Singapore’s military (SAF) scores highest on public confidence. However, while banks in the U.S. rank low on public confidence, our banks rank right at the top which reflects their strong track record and performance, especially relative to banks in neighbouring countries.

Not surprisingly, Singapore’s public transport system now ranks near the bottom on confidence and could indeed be the first major local institution to fall below 50% public confidence should current problems continue. The Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) has also faced recent troubles and the new CEO will have his hands full in restoring public and investor confidence. Town Councils too don’t enjoy especially high confidence levels.

Finally, it is worth noting that Singaporeans still place more confidence in national news sources over local online news. Interestingly however, while online news ranked bottom for Singaporeans over 25 years old, those under 25 valued online news much higher. It is notable that online news was not included in the lowest 5 institutions amongst the under 25 age demographic. This points to big changes in the future.

 

Conclusions

Our findings reveal a Singapore community very much at ease with its institutions with no real indication that public confidence is eroding to the extent that longer term trust is threatened.

Saying that, there is a clear dichotomy between institutions in Singapore with key players such as CPF, SGX and local Town Councils sitting on the bottom rung and most vulnerable to public opinion.

[1] Gallup, “Confidence in U.S Institutions”, June 2-7, 2015.