2012 ELECTIONS: Student group releases survey results

SURVEY SAYS::Ma enjoyed a slight edge over Tsai in support among first-time voters, despite their displeasure with the way the government has handled several key issues

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 - Page 3

First-time voters are primarily concerned with education and employment issues, and about 40 percent are now aware of the presidential candidates’ policies toward young people, the results of a survey conducted by a group representing university students nationwide showed yesterday.

The First-Time Policy Observation Group was founded four months ago by the presidents of student associations at more than 20 universities and it released the results of its survey on the political preferences and opinions of first-time voters at a press conference yesterday.

The group’s president, Chen Yi-chi (陳乙棋), said that after more than 10 student forums at several universities, it was concluded that the policies proposed by political candidates were often too distant from what most of the young people really want.

The director of the group’s policy department, Hsu Wei-yuan (徐維遠), a graduate student at National Taiwan University, said about 1.2 million first-time voters aged 20 to 23 would be eligible to vote in the Jan. 14 presidential and legislative elections, adding that the political preferences of young people could be a critical factor in deciding who wins the presidential election.

However, Hsu said that based on a survey of five policy areas — education, employment, housing, the environment and cross-strait issues — young people showed general disappointment with the government and all three presidential candidates for not paying enough attention to the opinions of young people.

The group said the survey of 1,377 respondents showed that 77 percent of young people were disappointed with the government’s efforts to improve youth unemployment and low incomes.

Moreover, 71 percent said educational resources were unfairly distributed during the past 10 years, 73 percent said the government was not doing enough to create more employment options for young people and 71 percent said there was insufficient support from the government to help young people establish their own business.

As for election preferences, group member Wayne Hsu (許哲瑋), a graduate student at National Chengchi University, said that when respondents were asked which presidential candidate cares more about policies for young people, 26.1 percent said Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), 18.8 percent said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and 9 percent said People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), with 38 percent saying they did not know.

In addition, while 34.5 percent of respondents said they had yet to decide who to vote for and 17 percent said they would not vote, when asked which candidate they would vote for if election day were tomorrow, 21.4 percent said Ma, 18 percent Tsai and 9.1 percent Soong.

The group said it had presented a petition with the results and analysis of its survey, as well as policy suggestions to the three candidates, and urged the candidates to try to understand the needs of young people instead of holding events such as street dance parties in attempts to get their votes.

The group called for the creation of a charity fund for student loans, a mechanism for reducing the number of universities and a better link between higher education and industries to solve the current employment problems.

“We are not only a piece of ballot paper, but each of us are human beings with demands,” Chen said. “We don’t ask for much, but we need to see the direction and hope in our future.”