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Malaysian Muslims More Likely Than Non-Muslims to Trust Government

by Nicole Naurath

Non-Muslims more likely to perceive corruption as widespread


PRINCETON, NJ -- Muslims in Malaysia are significantly more likely than non-Muslims to favorably view the country's governance, contrary to the pattern that might be expected among more affluent vs. less affluent social groups in a country.

Ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups, which make up the bulk of Malaysia's population, at one time represented an economic underclass relative to the country's Chinese minority. Though, according to Gallup World Poll data, the country's non-Muslim residents still have considerably higher average monthly incomes than its Muslim residents, the economic standing of Malaysia's Muslims has been enhanced since the 1970s by affirmative action policies that provide ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups with privileges in education and business.

These policies have periodically resulted in controversy. In early 2006, for example, a report claiming that the government's goal for 30% of the country's businesses to be Malay-owned had already been exceeded generated rancorous debate.

The conflict may be one reason why, according to a Gallup World Poll conducted in July 2006, Malaysia's non-Muslims tend to hold less favorable perceptions of the government than Muslim residents do. About three in four non-Muslims (73%) perceive corruption to be widespread in the government, compared with about half of Muslims (51%).

Asked whether they have confidence in Malaysia's national government, about two-thirds of non-Muslims (67%) said they do -- considerably lower than the 88% of Muslims who said the same. Similarly, 57% of non-Muslims said they have confidence in the country's judicial system, compared with 79% of Muslim Malaysians.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted in July 2006 with a randomly selected sample of 1,008 Malaysian residents, aged 15 and older. For results based on the sample of 547 Muslims, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±5 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 461 non-Muslims, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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