Yangon, Burma – As COVID-19 continues to hurt businesses and employment in Burma, a new nationwide survey by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research shows increased concern over the pandemic’s economic fallout.
Over two waves of interviewing in July and October 2020, IRI polled individuals across Burma to better understand their perceptions of the government’s response to the virus. Conducted in the lead up to the country’s November 8 general elections, the surveys revealed a widespread commitment to voting despite the dangers of COVID-19 along with persisting anxiety over the pandemic’s economic impact. These findings provide important context for the historically high voter turnout on Election Day, as well as insight into the people of Burma’s priorities for the new government to address in the post-election period.
General unease about COVID-19 increased slightly over IRI’s polling, with 95 percent of adults either “somewhat” (25 percent) or “very” (70 percent) concerned about possible infection in October, and 90 percent concerned in July. Likewise, 97 percent were either “somewhat” (23 percent) or “very” concerned (74 percent) about COVID-19’s economic impact in the fall, compared to 93 percent just three months prior.
Additionally, 72 percent of adults believed the virus poses a significant danger to Burma and that restrictions should be kept in place in October, while only 61 percent reported the same in July. These findings indicate greater concern over the pandemic in the fall than in the summer, in line with the surge in cases that Burma experienced in September 2020.
Regarding voting, the percentage of adults anxious about participating in the November elections amidst COVID-19 decreased between the summer and fall. According to the poll, 33 percent of adults reported in October that they were “not worried about COVID-19 and intend[ed] to cast [their] ballot no matter the situation.” Comparatively, only 25 percent reported the same in July.
Moreover, 54 percent of adults were “somewhat worried about COVID-19 and [would] cast [their] ballot if basic precautions [were] taken at polling stations” in October (53 percent in July). And only nine percent claimed they were “very worried about COVID-19 and will not participate unless extensive protections are in place” (17 percent in July). With no change from the previous round of polling on this subject in July, only three percent said they were “very worried about COVID-19 and would not participate at all.”
Ultimately, IRI’s polling reveals that, despite increased concern over COVID-19 and its spread in Burma, voters’ resolve to participate in the elections grew as the election approached. Likely contributing to the public’s commitment to voting were the proximity and intensity of campaigns in October.
This survey was conducted on behalf of IRI’s Center for Insights in Survey Research by Myanmar Survey Research (MSR) between July 3–17, 2020 for Wave 1 and October 9-21, 2020 for Wave 2. Data was collected through computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in Burmese with respondents aged 18 and above, across all 14 states and regions in Burma. The data is based on a two-wave panel survey with a total original sample size of n=1,226 for Wave 1 and n=1,217 for Wave 2, of which n=723 were original respondents and n=494 were replacement respondents who matched the state/region, urban/rural and gender demographics. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for national-level analysis. The overall response rate was 51 percent. This survey was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).