Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nothing but the Truth: Poll Shows that Young Singaporeans Are Proud of Their Country

Singapore.  (3 Nov 2010).

YahooNews! Singapore published an article today by Angela Lim quoting Education Minister and Second Minister for Defence, Ng Eng Hen, as saying that over 90% of students are proud to be Singaporeans.  Mr Ng's statement is likely linked to last week's question posed by Nanyang Technological University student Mr Lim Zi Rui to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong about how many young people are losing their sense of ownership in Singapore.  Since Mr Lim's comments, the Internet has been set ablaze with many netizens questioning the validity of these figures and the government has gone into Crisis Communication mode.

As mentioned, Crisis Communication in the Era of Social Media occurs in a perfect information environment.  Anything posted on the Internet becomes permanent and Crisis Communication Messages must be based on 100% truth.  In this instance, while Mr Ng did not lie, he may not have been 100% truthful.  A netizen found a 2007, Ministry of Education Executive Summary for the Committee on National Education which supports Mr Ng's statement that 90% of students are proud to be Singaporeans.  The Report however also went on to state that 14% of Primary 6 students, 20% of Secondary 4 students, and 23% of University students surveyed disagreed with the statement that "if I could live anywhere in the world, I would still choose Singapore as my home."

While Mr Ng cannot be faulted for telling a lie, I suspect his credibility (as well as the government's) will be impacted as stakeholders expect their elected leaders to tell the whole truth.  Half-truths will only create doubts in the stakeholders mind and affect the credibility of any future statements.

The key-lesson for PR Professionals from this incident is that we operate in a perfect information environment.  Crisis Communication therefore requires the company or organisation to be 100% truthful.


  1. On surveys, Lim Zi Rui's worries is reflected by surveys on Tan Kin Lian's surveys on the general election:

    87% will vote for change, and 90% view opposition parties favourably. Of course, Tan Kin Lian himself acknowledges that his online survey has limitations. But for us to believe the 95% survey is a stretch.

  2. Hi! Anonymous,

    Thanks for sharing Tan Kin Lian's survey results.

    Allow me to use this to illustrate the dangers with people using "survey results" to support their cause.

    In Crisis Communication situations, companies may resort to releasing informal surveys as "empirical evidence" to support their Message. While empirical data is always more convincing, the data must have two ingredients to be credible: (a) objectivity of the survey; and (b) a sample size that this representative of the population being measured.

    I am afraid that based on what Tan Kin Lian has presented, his survey falls short on both counts and is unlikely to be viewed as credible by discerning readers.

    My advise to Crisis Communication Managers is that in the event their empirical data is unable to withstand scrutiny, it is best to ommit it completely. Putting out such data will give the perception of desperation which is counter-productive in a Crisis Management situation.

    CW Fong


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