Myanmar Voters Prefer Male Candidates: Survey

By San Yamin Aung 23 August 2017

YANGON — The majority of respondents in a recent public poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) said they prefer male candidates to females, even when they hold the same qualifications.

The nationwide survey was conducted between March 9 and April 1 this year through in-person interviews of 3,000 citizens age 18 or older, selected randomly from across all states and regions.

The poll asked, “If there were two candidates running for office and they had the same qualifications aside from the fact that one was a man and one was a woman, which candidate would you be more likely to support?”

The answers allowed were: prefer men, prefer women, makes no difference, or do not know.

Sixty-three percent of men interviewed for the poll answered that they preferred male candidates while only 13 percent preferred women; seventeen percent said it made no difference.

Forty-four percent of women interviewed said they were more likely to support male candidates, while 38 percent stood with women candidates.

Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin, a former outspoken Yangon regional lawmaker who was defeated by her male counterpart from the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 2015 general election, said the survey highlighted a remaining hurdle in society for women wanting to enter politics.

“They assume women lawmakers can’t do what men do,” she said. “I want to urge women to try even harder.”

Now a founder of the School of Law, Gender & Politics in Yangon, she said more women lawmakers in Parliament could bring more plans for health, education and welfare systems, which are now weak.

Ko Nay Phone Latt, a Yangon regional lawmaker, said gender should not matter, and that performance should be the priority.

“The nature of the surveys is that people need to choose from the given answers. Sometimes, the given answers are not complete,” he added.

The survey also asked the respondents about issues concerning socioeconomics, performance of the government, state and regional autonomy, political parties and media.

The survey was released on Tuesday.

When the survey asked what the most important reason was for choosing a political party, 34 percent chose party platform, 23 percent chose party leader and only 12 percent chose the quality of the candidates.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents said they voted in the 2015 general election while 16 percent did not vote. Meanwhile, 77 percent said they are very likely to cast their votes in the upcoming 2020 general election.

There were 150 women elected in the 2015 general election of the 791 who stood for office nationwide: 44 in the Union Parliament’s Lower House, 23 in the Upper House and 83 in regional legislatures, putting female representation at about 13 percent – an increase of 8 percentage points, or an almost threefold rise compared to the previous makeup.