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Taiwan public pops Ma's poll bubbles

Taiwan public pops Ma's poll bubbles

Amidst a wave of adulatory publicity in the wake of the signing of the controversial "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" with the authoritarian People's Republic of China, numerous domestic and foreign media have claimed to have identified a "rebound" in public confidence in President Ma Ying-jeou's rightist Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government.
Such claims appear to have been at best premature.
Foundation for these claims was derived from public opinion surveys released in early July by two Cabinet-level government agencies, namely the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).
While the RDEC under former DPP government refrained from releasing presidential popularity polls, the RDEC has issued such surveys irregularly since beginning the practice only a month after Ma's May 2008 inaugural.
On July 11, the RDEC announced that its first such "image" poll since May 2009, conducted of 1,078 citizens on July 4-6, showed that 46.8 percent were satisfied with Ma's performance, down from 54.7 percent in May 2009.
In addition, in response to the ethically dubious question of "do you support President Ma?", the RDEC received a positive 55.3 percent with only 32.1 percent of respondents daring to declare that they "did not support" Ma.
Such findings were touted by some foreign news media, some of which did not take note of the 43.8 percent who expressed dissatisfaction, as confirmation by an "autonomous" source of a "rebound" in public confidence in Ma's leadership, which has been mired in the 20th percentile since last September in polls by private pollsters.
The RDEC poll also followed on the heels of the MAC's July 6 release of a commissioned survey of 1,114 Taiwan adults that displayed majority support for the KMT government's handling of the ECFA negotiations.
The poll guided respondents through detailed questions on the positive results of the talks and "found" that 59.2 percent felt the ECFA would have a positive effect on Taiwan's long-term development, that 61.1 percent were satisfied with the results of the (highly secretive) talks with only 30 percent dissatisfied and that 58.9 percent disagreed with that ECFA had "denigrated national sovereignty" with only 29.8 percent agreeing.
Curiously, the MAC survey did not explain in its queries how "national sovereignty" or "long-term development" might have been compromised by the pact and totally avoided asking citizens for their views on whether the ECFA should be subject to a through legislative review or ratified by national citizen referendum.
Noxious mushrooms
In contrast with the sanguine government polls, a survey of 1,010 Taiwan adults conducted by the private Global Views Survey Research Center from July 14-16 and released July 20 showed that Ma's approval ratings improved slightly, but by no means dramatically, from 28.4 percent in June to 32.3 percent and that the ranks of the dissatisfied also rose from 55.6 percent to 56.2 percent.
Moreover, the GVSRC survey indicated that overall public perceptions of the ruling KMT's performance may not have improved at all.
Indeed, the KMT's use of its overwhelming Legislative majority to send the ECFA directly to a second reading July 9 and thus avoid any substantive committee review or public hearings appears to have led to a 5.5 percent point jump in dissatisfaction with the performance of the KMT Legislative caucus from 58.2 percent in June to 63.7 percent with only 21 percent expressing approval of KMT lawmakers, down from 21.9 percent.
Indeed, the touted "rebound" of the public confidence in Ma and his KMT administration may prove to be a flash in the pan, especially as displays of incompetence and arrogance persist in popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.
Examples include the brutal takeover of farmland and by the Miaoli County Government under KMT Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung and the embarrassing eruption of the bribery of three Taiwan High Court judges by "former" KMT senior politician Ho Chih-hui, who escaped from bail and is believed to be in China.
Moreover, the GVSRC poll showed only a lukewarm improvement in public support for ECFA from 46.2 percent in March to 47.1 percent and a slight dip in opposition from 35.9 percent to 33.9 percent.
The GVSRC survey also cast doubt on expectations that the KMT-CCP reconciliation, the signing of the ECFA and other agreements and greater economic and social contact will inevitably lead to greater willingness among Taiwan's 23 million people to accept eventual unification.
On the contrary, the GVSRC survey showed that "Taiwan society still maintains a highly stable collective consensus on the question of whether the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should unify," namely, "No!"
Indeed, the percentage of respondents opposing eventual unification rose from 66.4 percent in March 2010 to 69.9 percent, while the share of citizens approving of unification slipped from 18.7 percent to 15.6 percent.
In sum, the lesson for the Ma government should be to refrain from further unethical and politically unwise publication of popularity surveys and for media reporters to check their sources and not treat polls conducted by Cabinet-level agencies as "autonomous" or credible.


Updated : 2021-05-12 04:44 GMT+08:00