Armed forces the most trusted Malaysian institution, politicians the least, Cenbet survey finds

PETALING JAYA: The armed forces ranked first as "most trustworthy" among eight key Malaysian institutions, while politicians were the least trusted, a nationwide survey found. 

Sixty percent of the 1,000 respondents polled in a survey commissioned by the Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) were impressed with the discipline of the armed forces and found their personnel to be well-trained. 

In contrast, only 16% of the respondents found politicians to be trustworthy. 

The respondents were not too concerned with the education level and personal wealth of the politicians but expected them, ideally, to be honest and dedicated to serve. 

Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu said given the unfavourable public perception of politicians, they needed to step up their game. 

“As a civil society group that advocates transparency and good governance, we are deeply concerned about society’s poor regard for politicians, especially with regard to their trustworthiness,” he said. 

The other key institutions listed in the survey were judiciary, mainstream media, online alternative media, police, municipal council, and Federal Government. 

Sixty percent of those polled found police force to be not trustworthy, with perceived corruption as the main reason of their trust deficit (71%), following by lack of professionalism (41%). 

For those who found the police force to be trustworthy, 51% attributed this to the efficiency of the men in blue. 

Close to half of the respondents (45%) found the judicial system to be trustworthy, citing judges’ integrity as the main reason for their confidence. 

Those with an opposing view considered the judges’ lack of integrity as their main concern. 

There was also a perceived lack of separation of powers between the judiciary and Government as a result of political interference and influence by the Government. 

The survey also revealed that 62% respondents found local authorities like municipal councils to be not trustworthy. 

Their pet peeve was inefficient service and perceived corruption. On this, Cenbet suggested that restoring local elections would narrow the trust deficit in this institution. 

Online alternative media enjoyed higher trustworthiness (31%) compared with traditional print publications (23%). 

Those who trusted online news were impressed with its “freedom to report without interference from external parties”, while those who have no confidence in traditional mainstream media felt that “newspapers are not free to report without interference”.

On the other hand, the main criticism against online media was that they were deemed to be “unfair” and publishing “inaccurate/fake news”.

Gan said the trustworthiness of institutions boiled down to fairness, integrity and efficient.

“Institutions perceived to be fair and efficient score higher in public trustworthiness,” he said.

As consumers are increasingly flooded by fake news, Astro Awani and The Star have emerged recently as among the two “most trusted” Malaysian source of news, a global report said.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018, the seventh edition of an annual series, found that when it comes to trust, Astro Awani and The Star scored 6.05 and 6.03 respectively.