President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) approval rating has plummeted to its lowest level since the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot in 2009 amid recent controversies over US beef and avian flu, a recent poll showed.
Only 26.1 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Ma’s performance, with 62.1 percent disapproving of the president, the survey conducted by Taiwan Brain Trust think tank on Wednesday and Thursday showed.
Those figures were the lowest since August 2009, when Ma’s approval ratings dropped to 16 percent after his handling of Morakot, the deadliest typhoon in Taiwan’s history, which killed hundreds of Taiwanese, the think tank said.
“The numbers signal a crisis for the Ma administration and, as you can see, the situation is getting worse,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.
Responses to almost all the questions asked in the survey were unfavorable to Ma. More than half of respondents said they were unhappy with his performance over US beef imports, the H5N2 avian flu outbreak, rising commodity prices and tax reform.
On the recent US beef controversy, 54.8 percent of respondents questioned Ma’s integrity, because he pledged not to lift the ban on the growth additive ractopamine during the election campaign. A total of 67.7 percent disapproved of the government’s conditional lifting of the ban.
When asked about the alleged cover-up of an avian flu outbreak, 54.1 percent of respondents said they believed that government agencies had deliberately concealed information and 73.8 percent said the government’s handling of the outbreak was unacceptable.
These results suggest two problems in the Ma administration — lack of integrity and incompetence, Lin said.
Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor at National Dong Hwa University, said Ma’s role in the recent controversies reflected a serious flaw in Taiwan’s Constitution.
At the beginning of his term in office, Ma was able to sit in the Presidential Office and do nothing, while claiming to be simply -fulfilling a role regulated by the Constitution, whereas he now “seems have his hands on everything” and is ignoring the Executive Yuan, Shih said.
According to the survey, Ma’a approval ratings never exceeded 40 percent after May 2009, one year after he took office.
Shih also highlighted the implications of answers to one of the survey questions, namely that 76.6 percent of respondents believed that public health was more important than relations with the US.
“It appears to me that people are more hostile to the US than they were and the Ma administration is going to have to work even harder to mend relations with Washington in the future,” he said.
Shih also said that former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), an experienced negotiator on trade issues who is familiar with international affairs, should have been playing a more prominent role for the DPP during the recent controversies over US beef and avian flu.
The survey, which collected 1,116 samples and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, also found that 53.1 percent of respondents were not satisfied with the new Cabinet led by Premier Sean Chen (陳冲).