Independent voters and first-time voters aged 20 to 23 will be key demographics in deciding the result of the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 14, according to several political scientists.
“Young voters in the 20 to 29 age bracket will play a decisive role in determining who will be the next president,” said Hsieh Hsiang-ching (謝相慶), an adjunct associate professor in the public administration department of Tamkang University.
Citing official census statistics, he said there would be nearly 3.5 million voters aged 20 to 29, of which 1.3 million would be first-time voters aged between 20 and 23.
Wang Yeh-li (王業立), who chairs the political science department at National Taiwan University, said first-time voters, or new voters, are normally not interested in political issues and so their level of participation is usually low.
However, when compared with older voters, most of who have longstanding political preferences, new voters are “virgin” territory, he said. No political party can risk ignoring them, Wang said.
Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), a political science professor at National Sun Yat-sen University, said -independent voters have tended to account for about 7 percent to 8 percent of the votes in national elections.
“It’s a small group of people, but their choices has been crucial,” she said, citing the 0.22 percent margin that decided the 2004 presidential election when then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) defeated Lien Chan (連戰) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), with independent voters divided equally between them.
Arthur Ding (丁仁方), a professor in the political science department at National Cheng Kung University described independent voters as “economic voters” who usually turn out for national polls, but not smaller elections, and therefore play a crucial role in the country’s development.
Independent voters attach importance to policies that will help improve their lives, whereas first-time voters, who are mostly students or recent graduates, care more about jobs, student loans and mortgages, Wang said.
“First-time voters and independent voters are concerned with the issues of administration performance and corruption,” said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a political scientist from Soochow University, whose research focuses on the field of psephology.