65% of S’poreans would pick Lawrence Wong to be PM among Cabinet Ministers: Poll

Poll shows 65% of Singaporeans would pick Lawrence Wong as PM

Mr Lawrence Wong is now the fourth Prime Minister (PM) of Singapore, but the road to becoming the leader of the Government and the 4G (fourth generation) Cabinet was by no means short.

Just four years ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic overturned everything we knew, Mr Wong was not even on the shortlist to become the next PM.

But when Heng Swee Keat signalled his intention to make way due to his age, Mr Wong was thrust into the running.

While he eventually received the backing of the 4G team and, significantly, then-PM Lee Hsien Loong, it was unclear if Singaporeans would accept him.

An Answers.sg poll found that they would. Some 58% of more than 3,800 respondents said they either strongly approve or approve of Mr Wong being the next PM.

Source: Answers.sg

In another poll, a majority of close to 300 respondents, or 65%, indicated that they would pick Lawrence Wong as PM out of the current line-up of Ministers. 

Source: Answers.sg

Next on the people’s choice was Health Minister Ong Ye Kung with 15% of the vote, followed by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing at 10%.

The appetite for a female Prime Minister appears lukewarm among those polled, with Ms Grace Fu (Minister for Sustainability and the Environment) and Ms Josephine Teo (Minister for Communications and Information of Singapore) garnering just 6% of votes between them.

One Singaporean told MS News that she felt Mr Wong had done well during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially when it came to making tough and unpopular decisions for the betterment of the people.

No preference for Prime Minister as long as Singapore doesn’t collapse

A 29-year-old project manager who only wants to be known as Ms Lee, said that she does not really have a preference for a PM among the Cabinet ministers.

However, she is broadly in support of Mr Wong as he is “very for the people and will take time to interact with people”. 

“If the PAP (People’s Action Party) or any other party can do their job, I will support them,” she added.

“I have no preference as long as the country doesn’t go haywire.”

Ms Lee’s view appears broadly similar to the majority of Singaporeans, who would like for the best and most-supported candidate to be the one who can pilot Singapore through turbulent times.

Background may make him more relatable

Mr Wong’s background as someone who grew up in Marine Parade and went to neighbourhood schools seems to give him an advantage in terms of relatability.

A 46-year-old engineer who only wanted to be known as Mr Leow said: “Unlike many of his Cabinet peers, Mr Wong did not attend Raffles Institution or Anglo-Chinese School. It’s an upbringing that a majority of Singaporeans can relate to.”

He also cited Mr Wong learning to speak both Mandarin and Malay — even though he grew up mainly speaking English — as a plus point.

“Many older folk like myself do not speak English well,” noted Mr Leow, who said Hokkien is his mother tongue. “If he wants to connect with everyone in society, he needs a good grasp of other languages.”

It is perhaps some of these factors that have made Mr Wong so popular in his Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, where he oversees the Limbang division.

On 16 May, crowds had gathered outside Yew Tee Point to celebrate his ascension as PM, and Mr Wong even made the effort to travel down from the Istana to greet them, arriving at 10.30pm.

Source: Lawrence Wong on Facebook

“Whether you want to call these things wayang (to put on a show) is up to you, but for the average person, these things do matter,” Mr Leow added.

Ong Ye Kung not unpopular, but Lawrence Wong has an edge over the rest

Among the other ministers in the 4G Cabinet, Mr Ong and Mr Chan garnered a combined 25% of the vote in the Answers.sg poll.

This is a somewhat similar reflection of what the 4G leaders thought. 

Mr Ong and Mr Chan had both been seen as leading contenders for the PM position, as a CNA article showed.

Ultimately, however, 15 out of 19 “stakeholders” who were all Cabinet ministers had opted for Mr Wong as its next leader, or an “overwhelming majority” of 79%

The process of obtaining this consensus was revealed in a 2023 press conference. Former PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan had interviewed each of the 19 separately, and they were asked for their preferred choice — other than themselves. 

It’s clear why Mr Ong and Mr Chan were initially potential candidates, having helmed various ministries of their own. Mr Ong was also principal private secretary to then-Deputy PM Lee Hsien Loong. 

Mr Ong had co-chaired the Covid-19 task force together with Mr Wong, which raised his public profile.

While social media platforms are not the biggest indicator of popularity, Mr Ong’s 250K followers across Instagram and TikTok aren’t to be sniffed at, even if they’re lower than Mr Wong’s 405K.

Indeed, for a 22-year-old student, who wanted to be known as Cheryl, she said her choice is Mr Ong.

“Mr Ong strikes me as a father figure,” she said. She also joked that subjectively, Mr Ong’s TikToks were more entertaining.

Ms Lee also doesn’t think Mr Ong would be a bad candidate. However, as long as there was consensus in selecting Mr Wong, she had no concerns.

Proved himself through key appointments as Finance Minister and Task Force co-chair

A search online reveals indications of why Mr Wong’s peers feel he’s a cut above the rest.

After Mr Heng took himself out of the running to be the next PM, Mr Wong was installed as the Minister for Finance – a role which experts saw as significant in his eventually becoming PM. 

His delivery of the Budget in 2022 solidified his communication skills as a leader, according to DPM Heng.

“It was not an easy Budget to deliver, but he did so with verve, steadiness and a sense of fairness,” he’d said in a social media post.

“I have found him to be a leader who considers things carefully, is able to bring people together, and has conviction to do what’s right for Singapore.”

His role as Finance Minister, as well as co-chairing the Covid-19 Task Force, gave Singaporeans a look at how Mr Wong dealt with tough scenarios, winning over colleagues with his “capabilities and leadership style”, according to SMU Associate Professor of Law Eugene Tan in 2022.

“I think he was confirmed because of his key role as finance minister in which he comes across as empathetic, yet firm and resolute,” Assoc Prof Tan Ern Ser told CNA.

The party has chosen their leader going forward, and his next task will be to steer the PAP through the upcoming General Election, which must be held by 2025.

Ms Lee noted that Mr Lee’s presence as Senior Minister in the Cabinet means they can rely on his years of experience even though he has stepped down.

“I’m okay with [PM Wong] since if he was selected, he has proven himself and is good at what he does. And if anything happens, SM Lee is still there.”

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Featured image adapted from Lawrence Wong on Facebook.

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