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A divided electorate: Preliminary analysis on ethnic voting By Bridget Welsh

Publish date: Fri, 25 Nov 2022, 10:37 AM

As Malaysia looks toward its new government of former political challengers Pakatan Harapan and BN cooperating, with GPS supporting (in a role that is not yet finalised), it is important to analyse the GE15 election results.

This article presents a preliminary analysis of one dimension of voting – support by ethnicity. It focuses only on Peninsular Malaysia and draws estimates from macro data, rather than more granular polling stations. A richer, more robust (and inclusive of Borneo) analysis will follow.

The preliminary findings show the importance of cooperation across coalitions, as BN and Harapan combined, bring to the table broad representation. Both Harapan and PN had deficits in representing all groups across communities.

Rising salience of ethnic voting

Malaysians vote for many reasons, but the dominant pattern of framing and analysing voting has been ethnicity. This is in part because campaigns are mobilised along these lines. While ethnicity only explained 40 percent of voting patterns in 2018, ethnicity has more strongly correlated with voting since the Malacca 2021 polls.

This is due, in part, to the greater use of identity politics to mobilise voters, which also occurred in GE15. Not only are voters engaged through ethnic frames, but they vote increasingly along ethnic lines.

This is not to discount other analytical lenses – generation, gender, class, urban-rural and region, to name a few. Attention to these patterns will follow, although it will take some time to complete the analytical work. Voting in Malaysia should not be seen mono-dimensionally, despite the explanatory lens of ethnicity.

As with all analyses, there is a need to caveat the findings. These are estimates. The analysis is also at the macro level, so there is less accuracy than using local polling station data. Here are the findings:

Perikatan Nasional

The Muhyiddin Yassin-led PN coalition won the majority of the support of the Malay electorate in Peninsular Malaysia, an estimated 54 percent.

This was an increase from the support of PAS in 2018 of 32 percent. It is also an increase in support from both Malacca and Johor polls, reflecting the well-organised campaign of PN.

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Yet, PN did not secure any meaningful share of support from non-Malays, an estimated support of 0.05 percent for both communities in 2022.

In effect, PN was a coalition only supported by Malays, with the exception of an estimated 5 percent of support from other communities, mostly Orang Asli.

Pakatan Harapan

Harapan received lower Malay support in GE15, from an estimated 25 percent in 2018 to an estimated 11 percent in 2022. This estimated level of support is similar to levels of support in the Johor polls.

Importantly, this is an overall Peninsular Malaysia estimate, so in many individual seats, levels would be higher (or lower).

Cooperating with BN in government has increased the Malay electorate support base of the new government, as shown below.

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Harapan’s estimated support of non-Malays reached estimated record highs, an estimated 94 percent of Chinese and an estimated 83 percent of Indians.

This can be explained in part by the salience of ethnic mobilisation in the campaign, which influences all communities.

Barisan Nasional

BN lost an estimated 10 percent of support among Malays in GE15, which accounts for its significant loss in seats. It won 33 percent of Malay support in GE15, down from 43 percent in GE14. BN also lost an estimated 3 percent of support among Chinese and an estimated 2 percent of Indian voters as well, although modestly.

BN’s loss of support was across communities, but this coalition still retained some support in all communities, although minimal among the Chinese.

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These preliminary findings show two important patterns – ethnic polarisation of voting among the two main coalitions Harapan and PN, which in part also reflected the dynamics in the campaign.

Second, that BN’s contribution is to strengthen the breadth of overall representation across communities in Peninsular Malaysia

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Harapan received lower Malay support in GE15, from an estimated 25 percent in 2018 to an estimated 11 percent in 2022.

Answer : Yeah! Scary! PH only received 11% votes from majority malays! PN got over 54%! This is a very very scary trend! Come GE16, PH will get like 1% votes from majority malays!
So Anwar, this is going to be uphill task for you! If you underperform, that's it! Pkr will dissappear from majority malays radar!

1 week ago


This is how voters across ethnicity voted between 2008 (GE12) to 2022 (GE15)

2008: PR 41%; BN 59%
2013: PR 37%; BN 62%
2018: PH 25%; BN 43%; PAS 32%
2022: PH 11%; BN 33%; PN 54%

2008: PR 64%; BN 35%;
2013: PR 85%; BN 15%;
2018: PH 91%; BN 8%; PAS 0%
2022: PH 95%; BN 5%; PN 0%

2008: PR 65%; BN 34%
2013: PR 50%; BN 48%
2018: PH 81%; BN 18%; PAS 0%
222: PH 83%; BN 16%; PN 0%


1. Between 2008 to 2022, the Chinese vote share won by PR/PH increased from 64% (2008) to 95% (2022).

2. Between 2008 to 2022, the Malay vote share won by PR/PH decreased from 41% (2008) to 11% (2022).

3. Between 2008 to 2013, the Malay vote share won by BN increased from 59% to 62%, while the Malay vote share won by PAS/PN increased from 32% to 54%.


1. There is no more Chinese votes to be won by PH. It has reached its peak. This means that PH cannot win anymore seats by relying on Chinese support. To win more seats, Malay support is needed.

2. We cannot assume that BN’s Malay support is PH’s Malay support. The current cooperation between BN and PH is at most a temporary stop-gap measure to ease rising tensions, but it will not last long. The Malay ground is unhappy with such cooperation and it could lead to whatever Malay votes BN have swinging over to PN.

3. At this rate, in GE16, PH will be a non-Malay Opposition, PN will a Malay Government.


PH needs to find ways to win Malay support.

So DAP leaders and supportors please stop flogging a dead MCA and do more to win Malay vote for PH

1 week ago


SsLee! Correct! The anti Dap sentiment used by PN has been very successful judging from GE15 result! Remember, even BN used anti Dap card too!
So it's very important for Dap leaders to stop using racial cards! I have warn about this for years!
We are seeing green wave that is unstoppable! If PH unity government fail, then there's no more 3rd chance! This is it! No more excuses! No more self inflicted daily dramas or screaming shouting in parliment!
PH has to be adult in the room or else, there won't be any room left!

1 week ago


PH only has 11% majority malay support! Going forward, if PH fails, that's it!

1 week ago


ideally, only DAP should represent d Chinese n Indians in West Malaysia!

1 week ago


Besides analysis on ethnic, not sure whether there is analysis on number of voters difference between constituencies, I observed that, there are big differences between constituencies, examples,
Lenggong (in northern Perak), 36,975 voters
Padang Rengas, 38,722 voters
Putra Jaya, 42,696 voters
Labuan, 44,515 voters
Bangi, 303,517 voters
Kota Raja, 244,807 voters
Damansara, 239,203 voters

1 vote in Lenggong worth more than 8 votes in Bangi ..... is this a discrimination? should this be rectified?

1 week ago


In the examples above, the first 4 MPs can cast 4 votes in Parliament, while the Bangi MP can cast 1 vote !

1 week ago


Next GE16, Pas will kaw tim Parliament?
More Undi 18 vote for Pas.
No joke. But this 5 years, PH is still temporarily safe.
How to win Malay votes? Even genius Rafizi also no idea how to win Malay votes.

1 week ago


Votes are confidential. How do they know the percentage of ethnic voters for each party? Haiz

1 week ago


PH only won 11% majority malay votes!

1 week ago


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1 week ago


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1 week ago

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