Letter: Why Ma snubs opinion polls

By Ben Goren  / 

Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 8

Academics have long realized, and documented, the problems with opinion polls. Opinion polls are difficult, perhaps impossible, to conduct and interpret in a fair and scientific manner.

Equally true is the fact that leading political figures often use opinion polls to belittle their opponents and boast over their own policies and public support.

While politicians tend to select poll results to back up their own discursive purposes, they are not as eager to examine the picture that polls paint in their entirety.

But one politician actually trying to get the public to pay less attention to polls is Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). He is keen to argue that the country's future should not be decided by opinion polls. But Ma's argument is just as politically manipulative as those politicians eagerly publicizing poll results.

Ma has, not surprisingly, taken his stand against polls after the release of opinion polls indicating that the population is increasingly conscious of the country's independent identity and culture and is unwilling to change the "status quo."

But conveniently, no serious analyst would disagree with Ma's criticism of polls. Academics know that there are more accurate ways to measure political opinions, such as votes and referendums, when it comes to major decisions such as official independence.

But Ma's sudden attack on the accuracy of opinion polls -- specifically on the issue of whether or not to pursue official independence -- is probably an indicator of his concern that his complex strategy of obstruction, confrontation and direct action in the media isn't convincing the public that it is part of China.

It is getting harder for the KMT to explain just why the country should long for China or why the public should not be allowed to decide in a referendum on whether to get rid of the outdated Constitution -- which incidentally is designed to support the existence of the KMT and not to encourage a modern and thriving democracy.

For the pan-blue camp, a referendum on the Constitution has the frightening potential to send an unequivocal signal to international observers watching for developments on the issue of formal independence.

The danger for them lies in addressing the issue at all, because it could mean losing their goodwill with Beijing, which is no doubt hoping that the KMT will win the presidency next year and start the process of unification.

A referendum's results cannot be ignored, and it is therefore a dangerous prospect because it would change the "status-quo."

The pipe-dream known as the "status-quo" serves the purpose of letting the public dream away and ignore China. In reality, it supports a policy of eventually giving up independence.

Ma knows, therefore, that opinion polls and referendums are both to be shunned because they may ultimately deliver the "wrong" result.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is willing to appear on CNN and clearly state his position on the status of our country. I wonder if Ma would be willing to explain for international observers just how Taiwan is not independent and why the people of this country should not be allowed to vote on their future and changes to their Constitution.

Ben Goren