One in three people who voted for President Gotabaya Rajapakse in the 2019 presidential election say they will not vote for him again if there is an election today.

This also includes those who did not vote for him but had reposed their hope in him and had voted for his party, the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna and its main coalition partner the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, in the 2020 parliamentary election.

These disenchanted voters, mostly degree holders and earning a higher income, are three times more likely to emigrate than voters who remain loyal to the president.

The number of Sri Lankans who want to migrate has doubled since three –five years ago with 27 percent of Sri Lankans wanting to emigrate if they had the chance. Youth between the ages of 18-29 wanted to emigrate the most. One out of two university graduates said they will emigrate if they are given a chance while in the northern and eastern provinces, two out of five said they will emigrate if they had a chance.

These findings last month are from the Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) survey which was launched to track public experience and opinion during the recovery from Covid -19. The SLOTS was run by the Institute of Health Policy which is an independent research centre based in Colombo.

Although the main drivers for voter disenchantment were the government’s response to Covid -19 and pessimism about the economy, the data also suggests growing despair about the inability of the political system to offer a change for the better.

There was not much of a difference between what the disenchanted voter felt about their household economic situation and what voters who are loyal to the president thought.  66 percent of disenchanted voters said their household situation is worse than a year ago while 56 percent of loyal voters are more hopeful about prospects for the economy. Pessimism about the economy among the overall public has plummeted to 56 percent from a high of 72 percent two years ago.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of disenchanted Gotabaya Rajapakse voters said the government’s Covid management response was good and wanted it to be stronger than ‘having to live with the virus’ but the response of the president’s loyalists came out higher at 74 percent.

On the question of how many Covid deaths will be acceptable when Covid restrictions are lifted, 46 percent of disenchanted voters said that said that less than 100 deaths a year will be acceptable while 77 percent of loyalists said they are willing to accept more deaths.

The numbers expected to emigrate when Covid travel restrictions are lifted will be more than in the past two years. More men than women are likely migrate.


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