Political support in an ethnically divided society: a case study of Malaysia

Willy Jou*, Kok Hin Ooi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies have identified ethnic divisions as an obstacle to successful democratization. The present study examines political attitudes among ethnic majority Malays and two minority communities, Chinese and Indians, in Malaysia, a country which took a step toward democratization with a change of national government in 2018, yet seems to have reverted to single-party dominance. Utilizing survey data from 2006 to 2019, we compare attitudes at four levels of political support among the three ethnic communities: rejection of authoritarian regimes, confidence in public institutions, engagement in channels of political participation, and national pride. The availability of data collected after 2018 allows us to detect changes following the country’s first national-level power alternation. Empirical analysis reveals that in recent years the Chinese are significantly more likely to reject non-democratic regime alternatives to democracy compared with the ethnic majority Malays. Moreover, the Chinese community's long-held distrust in the government, parliament, judiciary and civil service has faded by 2019, suggesting a change of attitude brought by the 2018 election. On the other hand, while all three ethnic groups express some degree of national pride in the surveys, ethnic minorities are less likely to be very proud of being Malaysian compared with ethnic Malays.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAsian Journal of Political Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Ethnic Minorities
  • Malaysia
  • National Pride
  • Political Support
  • Political Trust
  • Public Opinion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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