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
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
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
“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
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.”