Survey: Majority of Malaysians see refugees, undocumented migrants in a bad light, but not youths

Thasha Jayamanogaran
·3-min read
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — A recent survey by youth electoral advocacy group Undi18 revealed that while negative sentiments against refugees and undocumented migrants prevail in Malaysian society, this is largely not shared by those aged 30 and below.

The survey titled “Malaysia Temperature Check”, run jointly with youth non-profit Architects of Diversity, and pollster, showed that 70 per cent of its respondents felt that it was “right” for Malaysia to deport refugees.

However, when divided into age groups, 82 per cent of respondents above 31 agreed to the deportation, but merely 31 per cent of those below 31 shared the same sentiment.

Similarly, a whopping 85 per cent of respondents felt that Putrajaya should put the interests of citizens before migrants, with 92 per cent of those above 31 believing so compared to 74 per cent from those below 30.

Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai, during the online launch of the report, said they were surprised with some of the survey results — saying that one respondent who holds “conservative” view on one matter may have an opposite view on other matters. 

“This survey showed us we cannot ascertain how strong and conservative they are in one particular area. It doesn't necessarily represent their views and opinions in other personal matters,” he said.

The survey also showed that 52 per cent of respondents believed that undocumented migrants do not deserve equal protection in their adopted country, such as health care.

Out of those surveyed, only 29 per cent believed that undocumented migrants deserve equal protection.

Meanwhile, only 21 per cent of respondents said that such migrants should be allowed to work in Malaysia, with 60 per cent of those above 31 disagreed that they should be allowed to do so.

Malaysian authorities recently cracked down on undocumented migrants during the Covid-19 partial lockdown, which coincided with negative and abusive sentiments online against the community and refugees, especially Rohingyas.

This survey was conducted on September 3 and involved 1,027 respondents among’s online panel that was selected using active quota sampling-method.

All respondents aged 18 years old and above were quota sampled according to census statistics by race, gender, age and region of residence. There were no open ended questions in this survey.

Individuals aged 65 and above are underrepresented, likely due to lower rates of Internet usage among those above 60, the survey said. 

The organisers said this survey was commissioned in order to understand Malaysians’ opinion on contemporary social and economic issues, as well as understudied opinions. 

“It was also intended to discover what are Malaysians agreeing and disagreeing with, in order to guide further public conversations and future policy directions.

“This research is also an attempt at identifying what are Malaysians undecided on, in order to facilitate discussions and better education on these particular issues,” it said.


Related Articles Undi 18 survey: Trainee teachers should get sex-ed training, maths and science should remain in Bahasa Veterans Affairs Dept: Provide suitable platforms to nurture patriotism among Malaysian youths 108 undocumented migrants detained in ‘Benteng’ operation yesterday, says Ismail Sabri