Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, an epidemic seems to have spread across the nation, as calls to save the government’s support rating can be heard time and again.
While Tsai has been busy pushing her reform agenda, her support and approval ratings have dropped, as the number of people dissatisfied with her performance has risen.
Different solutions have been proposed, but the most common is the call for a change of premiers.
As soon as a new premier takes office, the government’s support rating climbs in the next few polls, but the numbers start to drop again after the honeymoon period ends: Not even widely hailed “relief pitcher” Premier William Lai (賴清德) has been an exception, as his ratings have also slid.
The main reason the Tsai administration has not received public praise for its reforms and instead stirred discontent, led by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), over a stagnating economy and diplomatic setbacks is due to deteriorating relations with China.
If this is the case, the only way to save Tsai’s support rating might be to appoint Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆) as premier.
Doing that would serve two purposes: On one hand, it would put an end to his manipulation of opinion polls, and on the other hand, it would show how competent he really is.
Opinion polls originated in the US, and so American culture is part of their background: Those who conduct such polls and those who participate in them are basically honest and impartial, and polls are not the results of pseudo-scientific manipulation.
There will always be a margin of error and opinion polls must not be treated as fact. If they were, the US would not have to conduct any primary elections.
Taiwan is imitating the US model, but it has been unable to imitate the culture of integrity and impartiality. The people conducting opinion polls in Taiwan have learned the theory and methodology, but their attitudes are not completely honest and impartial. They use imprecise language in their questions, hype the results as if they were breaking news and make fun of them with inappropriate jokes.
It is unfair to say that Taiwanese are not honest or impartial, but they do not place much importance in thinking. They like to parrot what others say, are reluctant to give due praise, and are good at finding faults and hissing at others.
Moreover, there is a discrepancy in the recognition of national identity that is rarely seen anywhere else, and this provides a good opportunity for the KMT to spread its sophistry and fallacies, and mislead the public.
I have read US newspapers for dozens of years, and apart from public polls conducted prior to presidential elections, I have never seen them treat the approval rating of their president as headline news or make it a subject to be commented upon.
The Gallup Poll, the survey company with the longest history, just changed its daily tracking of the president’s approval rating to weekly, but it only publishes the results as a matter of public record and never calls a news conference to present them.
Despite the lack of a culture of honesty and integrity and poll conductors intentionally manipulating surveys and taking pride in treating garbage as gold, these opinion polls continue to be treated as something important.
In this situation, it is meaningless to spend your days calling for saving the government’s support rating.
James Wang is a senior media commentator.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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