A recent survey commissioned by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) showed that 55 percent of Taiwanese thought the US would send forces to defend the nation against an invasion, while 37 percent believed no aid would come.
The serial poll conducted through March by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University suggested that US skepticism in Taiwan has waned after peaking last year, analyst Liu Shu-ting (劉姝廷) wrote in a blog post on the INDSR’s Web site on Wednesday.
About 60 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that accepting US military aid would lead to war for Taiwan, while 39 percent of respondents expressed agreement, Liu said, citing the poll.
Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army via CNA
Meanwhile, about 29 percent of Taiwanese believe that China is expected to be the most serious national security threat to Taiwan over the next five years, and almost no respondents believed that incitement to war by the US is a threat, the poll said.
The earliest INDSR poll in the series conducted in September 2021 showed that 57 percent of Taiwanese believed the US would militarily defend Taiwan, while 34 percent believed it would not, she said.
An INDSR’s polling in March last year showed that 40 percent of respondents said the US would use military force to defend Taiwan, while 49 percent said Washington would not, she said.
In August of that year, another INDSR poll revealed that 49 percent of Tawainese believe the US would militarily defend Taiwan, while 40 percent of them did not, Liu said.
These trends show that Taiwanese public confidence in direct support from the US in the event of war has reverted to levels from two years ago, she said.
Taiwanese confidence in the US likely fell due to the latter’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, but was restored by Washington’s continued aid to Ukraine following the Russian invasion last year, Liu said.
Increasing media literacy and awareness of disinformation in Taiwan likely contributed to the declining skepticism toward the US, which is a component of Beijing’s cognitive warfare campaign to split the US-led alliance of democracies on a global scale, she said.
Beijing’s endorsement of French President Emmanuel Macron’s message of Europe’s strategic autonomy is an example of the Chinese effort to divide the US and its allies, Liu added.
More than 30 percent of respondents persistently voiced doubts about the US commitment to defend Taiwan across the four polls, suggesting a strong disagreement about the US and its values among Taiwanese, she said.
Policymakers are urged to focus communication on the nation’s values, ideals and narratives instead of a transformation of public perceptions about the US, Liu said, adding that US skepticism is best countered by challenging its meaning and implications.
Promoting the view that Taiwan must have the strength to defend itself before seeking aid from allies, via a parallel with Ukraine, would also effectively counter Beijing’s efforts to discredit the US, she said.
The poll — which was conducted via landlines and mobile phones — gathered 1,535 valid samples among adults residing in Taiwan proper. The survey has a 95 percent confidence level and a margin of error of 2.5 percent.
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