According to an opinion poll completed on Sunday last week by the Chinese-language magazine the Journalist, with less than five months until next year’s presidential and legislative elections, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has a support rate of 45.7 percent, slightly ahead of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has a support rate of 40.2 percent.
However, opinion polls often overestimate the support rate of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidates and underestimate that of DPP candidates. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, Ma beat former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) by 17 percentage points, but before the elections, media outlets predicted Ma would defeat Hsieh by 21.5 to 30 percentage points, which shows that the opinion polls were off by 4.5 to 13 percentage points. That is to say that Ma’s lead of 5.5 percentage points over Tsai falls within the margin of error.
In terms of satisfaction with the administration of government affairs, Tsai still has a good chance of winning the presidential election. According to the poll in the Journalist magazine, only 42.5 percent of voters said they were satisfied with Ma, lower than the 44.8 percent of respondents who said they were dissatisfied with Ma. For Tsai, 43.6 percent of respondents were satisfied with her administration of policy, much higher than the 24.5 percent who said they were dissatisfied. This shows that voters have high hopes for Tsai, but also that 47.1 percent of respondents believe Ma is better suited to being president, compared with 42.5 percent preferring Tsai.
This means that approximately 3 to 5 percent of respondents who said they were dissatisfied with Ma were still willing to give him a chance to stay in power and do not have much confidence in Tsai. Therefore, Tsai must work harder at expounding and promoting her policies and visions if she wants to win the support of these key voters.
For the past month, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has said he might run for president, but only 31.8 percent of respondents believe he should, while 49.6 percent believe that he should not.
Of the three aforementioned presidential candidates, only 16.7 percent of respondents support Soong, which is behind Ma’s 37.2 percent and Tsai’s 31.9 percent. If Soong were only up against either Tsai or Ma, only about a third of poll respondents said they would support Soong. That means that whether in terms of legitimacy for a presidential bid, absolute support or relative support, Soong would have a hard time beating the KMT and the DPP candidates.
Even though it would be hard for Soong to take the presidential seat, he should aim to help the PFP gain more than the 5 percent of votes required for a party to enter the legislature and be allotted at-large legislative seats.
As for the legislative elections, 32.7 percent of survey respondents said they would support the DPP, 33.7 percent said they would support the KMT and 4 percent said they would support the PFP. Also, 48.8 percent said they were willing to split their vote, that is voting for a different party in the presidential and legislative elections.
If the PFP can promote itself as a party that is effective in terms of governance, that pushes for legislative reform and that promotes high-quality candidates, Soong’s electoral bid could help create momentum for the PFP, help it maintain its position as Taiwan’s third-biggest party and even help it become a force for administrative reform after the election. I believe this is why Soong is working so hard now.