Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Blue, green labels distorting polls

In the wake of World War II, Taiwan started holding elections for mayors and county commissioners to implement local autonomy in the 1950s. Since that time — and following the development of the democratic movement — the nation’s political landscape has changed from a one-party monopoly to a two-party rivalry.

After the first democratic transition of power in 2000, the “blue” and “green” camp labels appeared on the political scene. Now, as competition for scarce political resources becomes increasingly intense, these labels have become ever stickier. For example, in the run-up to this year’s mayoral election in Taipei — part of the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections — people have been talking about who will win if the contest boils down to a fight between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

Yet what makes people think that one side is sure to triumph if voters consider nothing but the candidates’ political hue? People who make this claim reason that within Taipei’s political setup, the blue camp is intrinsically stronger than the green, so as long as people vote according to their blue or green allegiance, the electorate structure solidly favors a specific candidate winning.

A similar, but converse, phenomenon would seem to be true of southern Taiwan. Hitherto, the generally accepted scenario of the south being pro-green and the north being pro-blue has meant that in certain counties and cities, there is not much scope for challenging — much less replacing — a sitting mayor or commissioner who is seeking re-election.

These are the appearances, but do they reflect reality? As far as Taipei is concerned, this narrative is based on a logical fallacy. It implies that the attributes of candidates in Taipei hardly matter, because no matter who the blue camp puts forward, most of the city’s residents will support that person unconditionally and make sure they win.

To put it another way, does this mean that most people in Taipei are robot-like voters who do not need to think? If one is going to say such a thing, perhaps they should first ask people residing in the capital whether they agree with this portrayal.

Now consider the idea that green mayors and commissioners will enjoy smooth sailing in southern Taiwan’s electoral waters. Recent surveys gauging commissioners and mayors’ approval ratings indicate that those belonging to the green camp are mostly ahead in the polls. This could be because of their performance in office, their public image or due to voter preference. Survey data show that there are many reasons for the formation of territorial blocs, so there are no sound scientific grounds for believing that political allegiance is the only factor determining incumbents’ chances of being re-elected.

There may be some basis for classing voters as blue or green, but that does not mean that such preferences are set in stone or that people will not take candidates’ good and bad points into account when casting their ballot.

Notably, when support for the head of state is falling, voters who would normally be classed as being on the same side of the political spectrum as the nation’s leader will start drifting away from this camp and turn into undecided voters who decline to voice a preference, or they may not vote at all, or support a different party. For example, toward the end of former Democratic Progressive Party president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) second term in office, his support rate in opinion polls sank to 18 percent and many of the party’s supporters turned into swing voters.

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