In 1960, Angus Campbell and three of his colleagues at the University of Michigan published a book, The American Voter. They used social psychology approaches to analyze long and short-term impacts on voting behavior.
The authors proposed that three determining factors have a significant effect on voting behavior: partisan identification, candidate evaluations and issue preferences. They defined partisan identification as a long-term factor that most affects voting behavior.
Examining the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) mayoral nomination strategy from this behavioral perspective, those who call for independent Taipei mayoral hopeful Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) to join the party take this view because they think the campaign will become a battle between parties.
However, since the 1970s, many US academics have found that the partisan identification explanation for and projection of election results has diminished, while the impact of candidate evaluations and issue preferences has increased.
Academics Hu Fu (胡佛), Lei Fei-lung (雷飛龍) and Hawang Shiow-duan (黃秀端), believe that candidate evaluations are the key factor affecting Taiwanese voting behavior. Chen Yih-yan (陳義彥) has said that about 55 percent of Taiwanese are “candidate-oriented.” Based on their research results, it would seem favorable for Ko to run for the mayor as an independent and form an opposition coalition.
Looking at previous Taipei mayoral elections, the highest percentage of votes the DPP has obtained was 45.9 percent and the lowest was 35.9 percent. However, the highest percentage of votes the pan-blue camp has obtained was 64.1 percent and the lowest was 51.3 percent. Clearly, the pan-blue camp is stronger than the pan-green camp and the relationship is stable. This shows that political identification is the key factor behind Taipei residents’ voting behavior and a big hurdle for the DPP.
After examining in-person interviews conducted after the Taipei mayoral elections in 1998, 2006 and 2010 respectively, academics Shyu Huo-yan (徐火炎) and Lin Chiung-chu (林瓊珠) and graduate student Hsueh Li-mei (薛立梅) found that party-oriented voters tended to support KMT nominees, while candidate-oriented voters tended to support DPP nominees.
In addition, Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), who is also the KMT’s chief campaign officer, published an article about former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) victory in the 1994 Taipei mayoral election in which he said that a voter’s impression of a candidate was the most powerful indicator of an election result. King has followed this approach in every election campaign.
This shows that the Taipei political map is favorable to the KMT and unfavorable to the DPP. For the latter, evaluations on a mayoral candidate’s characteristics, integrity, ability and charisma are the most crucial and effective to attract votes.
If the DPP wants to win in Taipei, it should understand the voting behavior of people in Taipei. The DPP has a support base in the city. Ko is very popular and charismatic, and terminating the KMT’s rule of the city is the joint wish of the opposition.
The DPP should stop restricting itself to existing nomination procedures, or hoping to turn candidate evaluations into partisan identification to increase its chances of winning the battle against the KMT. Instead, the party should highlight Ko’s characteristics and influence to gain the largest possible number of votes.