President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) defeated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in this year’s presidential election with 51.6 percent of the vote to her 45.6 percent. From research conducted in early February, soon after the election, on the reasons people voted the way they did, 5.75 percent supported Ma because of cross-strait issues.
This was particularly true in terms of cross-strait economic issues, which were a factor in the swing towards Ma for 4.25 percent of voters.
From this we can see that cross-strait economic issues were not the whole story behind the election result, but were nevertheless a significant factor in Ma’s victory. Without this, Tsai could have won the election with close to half the total vote.
In the aftermath of the election, the DPP published a report on the defeat. It said that the influence of the China factor on elections in Taiwan had become increasingly economic in nature, and that the linking of cross-strait relations and economic development was one of the three main reasons contributing to the defeat.
Tsai also pointed out that in the final stages of the campaign there was no getting away from the fact that the economic intimidation card influenced the outcome of the election as a whole.
According to the results of a daily opinion poll carried out by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center (ESC) in the month leading up to the election, before the end of December, Ma led Tsai by approximately 15 percentage points, a lead which he had extended to 24 percentage points close to the election.
Although this poll is clearly inaccurate, exaggerating the size of Ma’s lead, we can discern a conspicuous change in the final two weeks of the campaign. In the last two weeks, Ma emphasized cross-strait relations, and several major business leaders came out in support of Ma’s cross-strait policies, and what he had achieved.
We can conclude, therefore, that cross-strait relations were a major factor influencing the outcome of the election.
Between Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, we conducted a telephone survey on the influence of cross-strait issues on the way people voted, using stratified proportion random sampling and obtaining a total of 4,000 valid samples.
We wanted to gauge to what extent the cross-strait issue had persuaded voters who, prior to the election, had been dissatisfied with how Ma was running the country, to vote for him; or to what extent those who were satisfied with his performance voted for him because of cross-strait issues.
Second, we wanted to ascertain the influence of cross-strait economic factors on the presidential election or, in other words, the proportion of the electorate who were concerned that a victory for Tsai would have a negative impact on Taiwan’s economy.
We divided the electorate into four major categories, in terms of how important a factor the cross-strait issue was.
First, those for whom the cross-strait issue was a pressing factor, who were dissatisfied with Ma’s performance and for whom the cross-strait issue was the primary reason for voting for him.
Next were those for whom the issue was a moderate factor, who were dissatisfied with Ma and for whom the issue was a secondary reason for voting for him, or who were satisfied with his performance and who cited the cross-strait issue as a primary reason for voting for him.