• Thai consumers are growing less happy with the country’s political situation, according to FTCR’s latest survey.
  • Our forward-looking Political Sentiment Index dropped sharply in the first quarter to 55 from 67.6 in the fourth quarter of last year, while fewer respondents assessed current conditions positively.
  • Over half of respondents believe the next election, now officially delayed until 2018, will not occur before 2019.

The latest quarterly survey of Thais by FTCR indicates that optimism about the political situation has faded. In the first quarter of 2017, fewer respondents rated current conditions as “good” (19.6 per cent) or “very good” (5.3 per cent) than at any point in 2015 or 2016 (see chart). The proportion of respondents assessing the current situation as “very bad” jumped to 14.3 per cent, from 8.2 per cent the previous quarter.

Our forward-looking Political Sentiment Index, which measures the six-month outlook for political conditions, also deteriorated sharply. Reversing two sequential gains, the index fell to 55 in the first quarter from 67.6 in the final quarter of 2016, the lowest reading for this index since the May 2014 coup (see chart).

The political index closely tracks our Economic Sentiment Index, which tumbled 8.9 points quarter-on-quarter to 50.8 in the first quarter. A score above 50 continues to indicate optimism that conditions will improve but sentiment has clearly worsened. We do note a possible seasonal effect: Thai respondents have tended to become slightly more pessimistic in first-quarter surveys, as hope for the new year gives way to reality.

The deterioration in political sentiment coincides with new delays to the next election. The newly ratified constitution indicates that mid-2018 is the earliest that the poll will take place, due to the timeframes the charter provides for necessary laws to be drafted and approved. As recently as January, the official line of the military government was that elections would still be held this year, which FTCR believed was unlikely.

In our latest survey, 53.3 per cent of respondents said they did not expect the election to occur until 2019 or later (see chart). This reflects much greater scepticism than in the previous quarter, when almost two-thirds of participants believed the poll would be held in either 2017 or 2018. It is likely that this has played a significant role in the deterioration in political sentiment.

FT Confidential Research is an independent research service from the Financial Times, providing in-depth analysis of and statistical insight into China and Southeast Asia. Our team of researchers in these key markets combine findings from our proprietary surveys with on-the-ground research to provide predictive analysis for investors.

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