The small constituency effect and WP factor: Analysing PAP performance at GE2020

20 July, 2020

Photo: ‘PAP Flag’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

Singapore’s 2020 general election (GE2020) results have revealed a few things. The results have perhaps revealed Singaporeans’ desire for a ‘new balance in politics’, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentions. Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that the People’s Action Party (PAP) must work on its appeal to young voters and address the economic pain of middle-aged voters. What more can we learn about the PAP’s performance at GE2020?

From the results of GE2020, Professor Ivan Png (NUS School of Business and Departments of Economics and Information Systems and Analytics) discusses what voters and political parties can learn from the numbers, in ‘The small constituency effect and WP factor: What statistical analysis says about PAP performance at GE2020’ in the Straits Times.

Dr Png took into account constituency size, geography, and quality of the opposition amongst other important factors in his analysis. He ran multiple regression estimates of the PAP vote share in the last four general elections – 2006, 2011, 2015, and 2020. This allowed three clear patterns to emerge. Dr Png finds that the Workers’ Party has institutionalised itself as the party of opposition, and that the PAP did relatively better in single-member constituencies than group representation constituencies (GRCs). Among GRCs, the PAP tended to do better in those with larger populations.

However, Dr Png stressed that correlation is not causation. Firstly, the PAP vote share was higher in single-member constituencies than GRCs, but this could be down to the PAP’s strategy of fielding stronger candidates in single-member constituencies while assigning weaker candidates to ride on the coat-tails of big-name ministers in the GRCs. Secondly, the PAP did better in GRCs with larger populations, but this might simply be due to the drawing of constituency boundaries. Lastly, the Workers’ Party might have institutionalised itself as the party of opposition, but this could be due to its strategy of concentrating limited talent on a smaller number of contests.

Future research can enable significant findings. Dr Png finds that researchers and political party strategists could discover underlying patterns and trends, by combining GE2020 results with demographic data. Such an approach can allow investigation of relevant questions, such as whether GRCs are necessary to maintain minority representation in parliaments, and whether support for the PAP is stronger among older and wealthier people.

Read the full article here.