Rally turnout: A case of size of the boat or motion of the ocean?

Does size matter?

Jonathan Lim| September 03, 10:48 PM

The first rallies have been done and dusted.

The People's Action Party (PAP) held their first rally at Delta hockey pitch in Tiong Bahru. The rally site is designated for Radin Mas Single Member Constituency (SMC). That did not stop the members of the PAP Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC), including anchor Minister Chan Chun Sing, from joining in, as well as, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong turning up as a surprise guest to deliver a rally speech.

In another part of Singapore, on a field in Hougang SMC saw the Workers' Party (WP) and their supporters descend upon the grass. Although Hougang SMC is held by WP Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat, the rest of WP's top leadership took to the stage to deliver rally speeches as well.

However, the real star of the show last night, at least the most viral thing on Facebook, was definitely the size of the crowd that gathered at the field in Hougang. Many photographs showing different angles of the shot have been shared vigorously on Facebook.

we present the crowd in Hougang at The Workers' Party rally at 9:40pm. #GE2015 (Photo by Zeitgeist Photos by Weixiang)

Posted by Mothership.sg on Wednesday, 2 September 2015

For the PAP's rally, the grandstand was filled up and there was some spillover where people crowded in front of the rally stage. As someone who's attended several rallies of different parties in 2011, the turn out for this PAP rally was pretty good.

But it was still just a small drop of water compared to the sea of humans in Hougang.

What does crowd size mean?

Ask people from different camps and you will get different answers.

Some would argue that the crowds at Hougang rallies are always big, but do not reflect voter sentiment. Others would say that although the crowds are small at PAP rallies, they still get voted into power.

And of course, there's the argument that more people at WP rallies means more votes for them.

While there has been no way to study the phenomenon of rally crowd size, we can look at what has happened between 2011 to 2015 and ask why crowds have turned up the way they do.

People turning up at the WP's rally amid PAP's AHPETC/Integrity 'offensive'

If the crowd size at Hougang can be used as a yard stick to measure the effectiveness of using the AHPETC issue to discredit the WP, it seems that the PAP's offensive has hit a thick wall of humans.

The crowd size is comparable to the WP rallies of 2011. In fact, some people online are arguing that it looks bigger.

So between 2011 and 2015, if WP has not handled town council issues well, then why the big turn out nonetheless?

Perhaps, concerned residents wanted to hear their side of the town council story. Perhaps they did not care about AHPETC issues. Perhaps there are other pain points in the last four years that have brought them to the rallies.

We'll never know for sure why people turn up at rallies they way they do.

What we do know is more people on social media have now seen the large crowd at the first WP rally.

The disadvantage of being the PAP

They have been the party in power, and the ones setting and implementing policies that have impacted Singaporean lives, whether good or bad.

So naturally, they are the perceived source of problems or discomfort for many Singaporeans. Who else can Singaporeans blame? Themselves? Fat chance.

The opposition parties do not have such a burden to bear. They have the luxury of suggesting policies that can appeal to every Singaporean.

And that's the difference - opposition parties are a source of hope of a better tomorrow, while the PAP is seen as a source of problems, even though they are trying to sell the idea that the opposition will run Singapore into ruins, and that their version of the future of Singapore is brighter and albeit more pragmatic.

One sells hope, another peddles 'hard truths' with occasional sparkles. Whose rally would you attend?


Related reads:

Orh luak politics in 60s: How WP and PAP are frying their oyster omelette


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