Wed, Sep 19, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Poll could signal changing sentiment for unification

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fewer respondents approved of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and fewer advocated Taiwan independence, a poll released by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation on Monday showed, marking for the first time slightly more support among respondents for unifying with China than for maintaining the “status quo.”

The results showed that 36.2 percent of respondents supported an independent Taiwan, while 26.1 percent favored unifying with China and 23.2 percent supported maintaining the “status quo” in cross-strait relations.

It was the first time that the number of pro-unification respondents exceeded those favoring maintaining the “status quo,” the foundation said.

The foundation analyzed its poll data from 1991 to this month and found that the percentage of respondents favoring pro-independence increased from 12.5 percent in 1991 to a high of 51.2 percent in May 2016, when Tsai took office.

However, the percentage has dropped to 36.2 percent in the two-and-half years since she became president, the data showed.

The data showed that the percentage of pro-unification respondents decreased from 45.3 percent in 1991 to a low of 14 percent in 1996, when China conducted a series of missile tests in the waters around Taiwan.

Tsai’s cross-strait policy of maintaining the “status quo” upset pro-independence supporters, but also displeased pro-unification supporters and advocates of maintaining the “status quo,” foundation chairman Michael You (游盈隆) said.

Dissatisfaction on the part of all three groups might have resulted in Tsai’s approval rating sinking to 31.2 percent, her second-lowest rating since taking office, You said.

People are frustrated with Tsai’s cross-strait policy, because it does not provide them with the vision of an independent Taiwan, nor does it provide a road map showing how the nation is going to achieve independence, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫堦) said.

“Democracy is Taiwan’s greatest asset, but Tsai compromised democratic values by remaining silent over the plight of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) for fear of provoking Beijing,” Chien said, adding that it is not surprising that the voice of pro-independence voters is getting softer.

The poll results showed that people are becoming impatient with Tsai’s lack of cross-strait results and the shutting down of all communications across the Taiwan Strait, political commentator Chan Hsi-kui (詹錫奎) said.

Although the number of those who support Taiwanese independence could be expected to increase in the long run, sentiment could rise and fall under various presidents, former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said.

“Pro-independence momentum gained strength during the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) due to the sense of urgency that they felt as the administration pursued closer relations with China,” Lin said. “The momentum weakened during the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), as well as under Tsai, because of dissatisfaction with their performance.”

Unlike Tsai’s predecessors, the percentage of pro-independence supporters in the poll has dropped for three consecutive years during her first term, which is more serious, Lin said.

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