Poll results make grim reading for Ma

UNPOPULAR::Most respondents believed that the president bears responsibility for the widening gap between rich and poor, which may explain his plummeting ratings

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 - Page 1

The results of an opinion poll released yesterday show widespread discontent and a lack of confidence in the ability of the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to resolve recent controversies involving the financial difficulties faced by various social insurance programs and year-end bonuses for retired government employees.

According to the survey conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank on Thursday and Friday, 68 percent of those polled supported the cancellation of the NT$20 billion (US$684 million) allocated annually for year-end bonuses for retired public servants, Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) of the think tank told a press conference.

More than 70 percent — 71.8 percent — of the respondents said the current pension systems favor government employees, military personnel and teachers against 17.9 percent who disagreed, Hsu said.

Additionally, 72.1 percent were concerned that the Labor Pension Fund (LPF) would be bankrupt by the time they came to apply for their pensions.

The survey shows that the LPF controversy has affected people covered by other insurance programs, with 69.5 percent of respondents in the Public Servant Pension Fund, 76.4 percent in the LPF and 69.1 percent in the National Pension Fund saying they were worried about the financial health of their funds.

Most of those polled — 72.6 percent — were not confident about the administration’s ability to save the LPF from bankruptcy, with only 24 percent believing this was possible.

Asked whether Ma has promoted social justice or contributed to an increasing wealth gap since his inauguration, 73.5 percent of respondents opted for the latter.

This could explain why Ma’s approval rating has hit a new low of 19.3 percent, along with a new high for his disapproval rating, 69.8 percent, since the think tank began its monthly survey in March.

“The results seem to give the impression that Taiwan has entered an era of class conflict, with most of Ma’s policies ‘robbing the poor to help the rich’ and his administration unable to respond to people’s grievances against injustice,” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who also serves as the president of the pro-independence think tank.

Young people, in particular, felt that their interests have been sacrificed and that they get the short end of the stick, Lin said.

On cross-strait issues, 33.3 percent of respondents were satisfied with former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) performance during his landmark visit to China earlier this month, with 26.6 percent dissatisfied. However, 40.1 percent of those polled said they had no opinion.

Reactions toward Taiwan’s closer economic integration with China remained mixed, with 48.6 percent saying Taiwan should not be overdependent on Beijing economically and 36.5 percent saying closer integration would be beneficial.

On further opening of Taiwan’s market to Chinese investment, 41.8 percent of respondents agreed with the policy while 43.6 percent disagreed.

The poll appeared to reflect a stronger Taiwanese identity as 79 percent of those polled said Taiwan and China are different countries and 74.9 percent said they did not support National Health Insurance coverage for Chinese students in Taiwan.

The poll collected 1,103 valid samples and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.