Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Confusion reigns over opinion poll results


Opinion polls in this country are notorious for hidden agendas. But two recent polls on cross-strait relations, released back to back last week, were notable for the confusion they created.

The pro-blue magazine Business Weekly and the Mainland Affairs Council released the results of their latest polls on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Newspaper coverage included headlines that appeared contradictory: "73 percent oppose the `one China, two systems' principle," "Most Taiwanese believe independence would lead to war" and "70 percent feel China unfriendly toward Taiwan."

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported last Thursday that the Business Weekly poll "showed that 58 percent of local people regard themselves as Chinese. These people said that independence is the red line for the security of Taiwan and they oppose a cross-strait war."

In actuality, the magazine poll found that 58 percent of those who identified themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese were opposed to cross-strait war.

The council's poll, however, did not mention the possibility of cross-strait military engagement, asking only for responses on whether China exhibits good will towards Taiwan. The poll found that 70.4 percent felt China was unfriendly toward the government.

The magazine poll found that, with regard to Washington-Beijing-Taipei relations, 16 percent of respondents said it was best to remain friendly with the US, while 10 percent felt it was wiser to further ties with Beijing. Fifty-two percent said both were equally important.

The council's survey found that 66.8 percent of respondents agreed that the government should continue to develop diplomatic relations even if such moves lead to cross-strait tension.

The council said that 29.7 percent of those polled felt that diplomatic relations with China were more important than ties with other nations.

Chang Shu-ti (張樹棣), director of the council's Department of Policy Planning said one of the main differences which high-lighted the difference in the two surveys was the methodology -- the council's poll asks the same questions time after time.

"We've been asking the same questions for over 10 years now, allowing us to observe if there are any changes in response to the same questions. A one-time survey might be worth referencing, but it is different from a long-term observation of cross-strait issues," Chang told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Chang said long-term polling on issues of independence and unification, as well as the maintenance of the status quo, has led the council's consultation committee to recommend new questions.

"Because it is clear from previous polls that opinions on the issue of independence and maintaining the status quo are pretty much set, there have been recommendations that the council's poll go more in-depth in learning about what maintaining the status quo' entails for different people," Chang said.

Both Business Weekly and the council commissioned National Chengchi University's Election Study Center to conduct the polls.

"Both parties came to us with an idea of what they wanted from the poll, and we helped them formulate questions ... We've been working with the Mainland Affairs Council for a long time now, but this is the first time we worked with Business Weekly," said one center representative who asked to remain anonymous.

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