Black Box

The Face of Singapore’s Next President

September 17th, 2016 Posted in White Papers and Public Research

Blackbox Poll Reveals Protecting Our Reserves More Important Than Private Sector Experience


Yesterday, the Government released its White Paper in response to the recent Report of the Constitutional Commission reviewing the elected Presidency.

In exclusive polling by Blackbox Research, Singaporeans indicated that their top preference for amending the current eligibility for an elected President would be the introduction of tougher checks and balances to restrict the Government’s ability to spend Singapore’s reserves.  More than half (53%) of Singaporeans said such checks are ‘absolutely necessary’ to improve the current system. In contrast, only 28% said it was ‘absolutely necessary’ to tighten the controls on nominees coming from the private sector.

Overall, when evaluating the changes they would like to see for the elected Presidency, Singaporeans ranked tougher checks for governmental use of Singapore’s reserves as their top priority, with support for candidates who have contributed greatly to the community over a long period of time coming in second. More stringent criteria for those applying for the top job coming out of the private sector only came in third. This juxtaposes with the large degree of media attention the proposed recommendation has been receiving in local media. Stronger opportunities for minorities ranked fourth, while the need for greater opportunities for a female President came in a distant last.

When it comes to opportunities for a minority President, only 23% think it is ‘absolutely necessary’ to provide constitutional protection to ensure minorities can become President.  However, there were clear segment differences. While only 14% of Chinese Singaporeans think opportunities for minorities are ‘absolutely necessary’, 52% of non-Chinese Singaporeans do so. There was also a clear age divide.  Over one third of those aged 15-24 believe equal opportunities for minorities to be ‘absolutely necessary’, whereas only 13% of those 50 and above share this view.

Likewise, over a quarter of 15-24-year-olds (27%) believe increasing opportunities for a female President to be ‘absolutely necessary’, while only 12% of those over 50 think so, suggesting a generational shift in mindset.

Overall, our findings show less than four in ten Singaporeans have followed the news on this issue in recent months. Amongst those who have, it is clear that the majority are more focused on the President’s role as a financial protector of last resort. Findings also suggest that many Singaporeans are equally keen to see nominees who qualify based on previous community contribution and not solely on their track record in the private or public sector.

Blackbox plans to share more detailed research in coming months as the changes are debated in Parliament.

Table 1

Base: N=2,668 Question: “Thinking about what the eligibility criteria for Singapore’s elected President should be, do you think the following are necessary to improve the current system?”