Ma edges Tsai in new TAPOD poll*



By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter


Although President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) leads Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on perceived ability to promote economic development, protect Taiwan against China and lead the country, Tsai is ahead in the “feeling thermometer,” a survey by the Taiwanese Association for Pacific Ocean Development (TAPOD) shows.

To more precisely monitor the January presidential election, the TAPOD started a project to release poll results on the support rates of presidential candidates once a month until the election.

Results of the first poll, conducted from Aug. 29 through Wednesday with a little more than 1,600 valid samples, were released at a press conference yesterday.

The poll showed that 41.1 percent of respondents would vote for Ma, while 39.4 percent would vote for Tsai. However, if People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) joined the race, Ma’s support rate would drop to 33.1 percent, while Tsai’s would drop to 32.4 percent, with Soong receiving 12.7 percent.

While the difference in overall support for Ma and Tsai was marginal and not surprising, TAPOD chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆) said it highlighted a few interesting aspects.

For instance, when asked “when facing threats from China, who do you think would best defend Taiwan’s interests,” 32.9 percent of respondents said Ma, while 30.6 percent said Tsai and 12.5 percent said Soong.

“This actually surprises me,” You said. “Because usually we would expect that people would think Tsai would best defend Taiwan’s interests, but Ma is actually leading Tsai by about 2 percent.”

Yang Tai-shun (楊泰順), a political science professor at Chinese Culture University, said this could stem from belief in Ma’s “three noes” policy of “no independence, no unification and no use of force.”

Another notable finding, You said, was the fact that 41.6 percent of respondents said they supported independence for Taiwan, while 26.1 supported maintaining the “status quo” and only 15.5 percent -supported unification with China.

“Not only do more people support independence for Taiwan … that support for independence has gone up 3 percent from three years ago when Ma first took office,” You said.

Political observers were divided on what had led to the increase in support for Taiwanese independence.

Yang said this could be the result of repeated statements by Ma to the effect that the Republic of China (ROC) is a sovereign and independent country, “and thus those who support Taiwanese independence may not be traditional independence advocates who seek the founding of a ‘Republic of Taiwan,’ but rather the idea that the ROC is a sovereign and independent country.”

Taiwan Association for China Human Rights chairman Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏) disagreed.

“Maybe next time, it could be asked in the survey what percentage of those who support Taiwanese independence are businesspeople investing in China or have friends or relatives investing in China,” Yang said, adding that because of enhanced exchanges between the two countries, more people have noticed the difference between Taiwan and China and realized that the two are different countries.

“Even some of my guests from China admitted to me in private that Taiwan is better off not being part of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

On the other hand, Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor at National Dong Hwa University’s Department of Indigenous -Development and Social Work, who is also a political analyst, said that nearly a quarter of respondents who supported Taiwanese independence would vote for Ma, while a little more than 10 percent of people who support -unification with China would for Tsai.

“This may be the result from both camps playing down the unification and independence issue,” Shih said. “But Tsai may need to think twice whether such a campaign strategy is best for her.”


 * Taipei Times 2011/11/05