4 December 2015

YouGov maps haze fallout

Many Southeast Asian countries experienced significant haze – caused primarily by forest fires burning in the region - this year. According to a YouGov survey*, there was high awareness of the haze issue in Southeast Asia within the region.

Almost eight in 10 (78%) Asian people say they are aware of the haze caused by Indonesian landscape fires. Awareness was lowest in Hong Kong (at 48%) and Mainland China (at 44%), but in the three countries most affected by the haze (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore), only 2% of respondents in each location claim not to know about the haze.

Mask-makers did well during this period. Two-thirds (65%) of those in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore wore a mask when the haze was present. Among those who chose not to wear a mask during the haze, 39% say that they don’t find it necessary, 38% think it’s uncomfortable to wear masks, and 18% think that the mask cannot protect them from the pollution anyway.

Among those who are aware of the haze, 58% of them think palm oil companies setting their plantations on fire are a cause of the fires in Indonesia. Some 48% think the fires are caused by farmers setting their plantations on fire. And 44% think that dry weather causes the Indonesian fires.

When asked who they think is responsible for the resulting haze from the fires, with multiple answers possible, 63% of respondents said the palm oil plantation companies. An almost equal number, 62%, think it is the Indonesian Government. A smaller number, 18%, think it is the brands which use palm oil in their products that are responsible for the haze.

Two in every three people in Asia (67%) think the Indonesian government has not done enough to solve theproblem of the haze, believing the government can do more to reinforce the law regarding the use of fire to clear land for oil plantations. Within Indonesia itself, responses on this aspect are quite diverse: 45% believe the Indonesian government can do more to solve the haze problem, but 44% think their goverment has done enough by enacting legislation that prohibits illegal forest fires to clear land for farming.

YouGov also asked Asian respondents if any other regional country governments (or other parties) can do more to help solve the haze problem. Two thirds (65%) of Asian respondents think governments in other countries can do more in terms of investment in monitoring and enforcing existing bans on the use of fire as a method for land preparation. About half (51%) agree that companies using palm oil in their products should be able to verify that the palm oil used does not contribute to deforestation. 42% agree that consumers should also let manufacturers know that they want to know if the palm oil used in their products is grown on plantations free from deforestation.

Source: YouGov infographic.

One-in-five people (20%) in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore suffered health problems due to the haze. More than half (57%) of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean respondents said they stay at home more when there is haze. Only 13% said the haze had not affected their lifestyle in any way.

For 69% of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, outdoor activities became less attractive. Four in 10 (41%) of them also said they spend less on travel and holidays because of the haze.

While 43% of respondents in the three countries most affected by haze haven’t had any visible health impact as a result of the haze, about one in three (32%) have suffered some haze-related health problems that they addressed themselves, while one in five (20%) suffered haze-related health problems for which they had to see a doctor.

When asked “If haze did not affect your country, how concerned would you be regarding this issue?”, more than half (52%) of respondents in these countries says that they would still care. Only 5% claim they would not care at all.

Upon hearing that the haze would continue on until early next year, 66% of respondents are disappointed, 54% are angry and 53% say they want to do something to help. Some 22% say in this situation, they will be resigned to fate.

Regarding the Pollutants Standard Index (PSI) readings or equivalent produced by the national environment authorities, 57% of respondents in Asia sees the readings as ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ trustworthy. A quarter do not trust the readings and the remainder do not look at the PSI readings at all.

The haze has changed the travel behaviour of people in Asia Pacific. 68% say they would only visit cities/countries that remain unaffected by the haze. Only 7% of respondents would still visit the affected cities/countries and think the haze is not a problem. Another 18% would still visit the affected cities/countries due to business travel, family visits, or because they already paid for the trip.

In fact, regardless of the haze, Singapore is among the top five countries in the Asia Pacific region where respondents would want to visit the most:

1. Japan (50%),
2. Australia (43%),
3. New Zealand (38%),
4. Singapore (33%), and
5. Thailand (25%).

However, the above ranking doesn’t stay the same in some countries. In Mainland China, half of the respondents (50%) want to visit Singapore most, while over 50% of Malaysians want to travel to Australia most.


View the full infographic

*YouGov polled 7,536 respondents online across Asia Pacific from 17 to 23 November 2015. All data was collected from YouGov panellists and weighted to be representative of the online population.