Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) continued to lead the other candidates by a wide margin in the latest opinion poll on next year’s presidential election, with more than 65 percent of respondents saying they expect Tsai to win.
The poll, the first conducted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association (CSPA) after People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) joined the race on Thursday last week, showed that Tsai’s support rating climbed by about 3 percentage points to 42.9 percent from 39.6 percent last month.
During the same period, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) saw her support rating drop to 16.8 percent from 19.4 percent, while Soong’s support level rose to 23.3 percent from 21.4 percent, the survey showed.
It was the first time Tsai’s support rating exceeded the combined figures for Hung and Soong, CSPA deputy director-general Tan Yao-nan (譚耀南) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Despite Soong’s entry into the race, as many as 67.4 percent of respondents were optimistic about Tsai winning the election on Jan. 16 next year, up from 63.4 percent last month. Just 8.3 percent and 9.4 percent believed Hung and Soong would be elected as the nation’s next president respectively, the poll indicated.
Contrary to a widespread belief that cross-strait issues were a sore spot for the DPP, 34.5 percent of those polled were confident in Tsai’s ability to safeguard the nation’s interests in cross-strait negotiations, against Hung’s 16.4 percent and Soong’s 22.1 percent.
Tsai’s leadership skills also won high approval from respondents, with 39.4 percent believing that she would steer Taiwan into a better future, while just 22.1 percent and 15.1 percent expressed the same kind of confidence in Soong and Hung respectively.
In addition, the poll found Tsai to be more popular than her opponents among people aged below 40, particularly among those in the 25 to 29 age group, with a 55 percent support rate.
On the other hand, Soong garnered the highest support rating among Taiwanese aged between 45 and 54, with 34 percent backing him. Hung received less than 20 percent support among people of nearly all age groups, with the only two exceptions being those aged between 35 and 39, as well as between 40 and 45.
With regard to the legislative elections, the DPP received 30.3 percent of support as a party, followed by the KMT’s 24.3 percent, the PFP’s 6.6 percent and the New Power Party’s (NPP) 5.6 percent.
The telephone-based poll was conducted on Sunday among 1,074 Taiwanese aged 20 or older, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Commenting on the results, CSPA secretary-general Hung Yao-nan (洪耀南) said the large gap between Soong’s support rating and that of the PFP suggested that his presidential bid had failed to help build momentum for his party.
“However, the noticeable disparity could be due to some pan-blue supporters’ intention to cast party votes for the KMT, as a way of compensating for their plan to vote for Soong as president instead of Hung,” Hung Yao-nan said.
Tan said that based on the poll, Soong’s presidential bid was mostly detrimental to Hung, but it could nevertheless compromise Tsai’s chance of winning more than half of the votes in the election.
“Although a divided pan-blue camp might successfully put Soong in second place in the presidential election, the veteran politician should still prepare himself for a likely curveball from Beijing in the next five months that could remove him from contention,” Tan said.
As for the role of third political forces in the race, Tan said there would be ample room for further development of the parties, given that the newly founded NPP received a support rating greater than the 5 percent threshold for parties to name legislators-at-large in the legislature and that nearly 20 percent of respondents declined to respond.
Former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) said that if Soong’s upward momentum continued, Hung’s support rating would most likely plunge to about 10 percent.
However, Hsu said the chances of Tsai’s support rate dropping were slim, citing the trend of an increasing turnout among young voters.
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