If light blues are alienated…

What effect will Hung Hsiu-chu’s nomination have on the KMT vote? This is an unanswerable question, of course. We don’t know what Eric Chu or Wang Jin-pyng would have gotten if they had won the KMT nomination. We don’t really know the state of public opinion in national politics after 2012, except that we have a notion the KMT has lost some ground. Still, let’s make a lot of wild assumptions and see where they take us. Remember, you can dispute almost every step of the following exercise if you want to, so take all of this as merely one of many possible outcomes.

Hung Hsiu-chu is from the True Believer wing of the KMT. It is hard to know exactly what sort of strength this wing has since the deep blue and light blue votes always get mixed up together. Perhaps the best indicator comes from 20 years ago, at the height of the New Party’s popularity. In 1995 and 1996, the New Party was solidly established as the vanguard of ROC nationalism. Moreover, it was also labeled as a Taipei party and a Mainlander’s party. Unlike James Soong and the PFP, the New Party never figured out how to speak to the KMT’s local factions. I have a hunch Hung Hsiu-chu might face the same constraints over the next several months. There are three good measures of New Party support: the 1995 legislative race, the 1996 National Assembly race, and the 1996 presidential campaign of Lin Yang-kang and Hau Pei-tsun. You might object that Lin was an established Taiwanese politician with deep ties to localized forces, and you would be correct. However, in 1996 the KMT’s local factions – except those in Lin’s home Nantou County – all sided with Lee Teng-hui. Lin had to bring in Hau to consolidate his strength among the non-Mainstream faction, and this further alienated the local factions. As one of my mentors memorably put it, Lin plus Hau equaled Hau. Hau was not a New Party member, but the party formed to support him against LTH and his son was a New Party legislative candidate. From the following table, you can see that the three measures of New Party strength 20 years ago were fairly consistent from county to county.

District 95 LY 96 NA 96 Lin-Hau
National 13.0 13.7 14.9
Taipei City 28.6 28.2 24.9
Taipei County 17.1 18.1 17.8
Keelung City 19.3 20.9 18.6
Ilan County 0.0 2.1 6.6
Taoyuan County 18.2 18.4 17.0
Hsinchu City 23.2 11.2 17.3
Hsinchu County 12.6 11.8 11.0
Miaoli County 7.2 7.9 9.1
Taichung City 22.9 17.8 22.9
Taichung County 11.8 11.1 13.6
Changhua County 4.7 6.1 8.6
Nantou County 7.2 11.8 46.6
Yunlin County 2.5 0.0 7.3
Chiayi City 2.9 6.9 9.7
Chiayi County 2.9 1.9 5.0
Tainan City 7.8 10.3 8.6
Tainan County 4.7 6.7 5.0
Kaohsiung City 11.2 14.0 12.8
Kaohsiung County 7.8 6.7 8.2
Pingtung County 4.5 6.6 5.8
Taitung County 2.4 4.0 10.7
Hualien County 5.1 13.6 15.8
Penghu County 5.2 16.5 7.2
Kinmen County 33.4 50.8 29.6
Matsu County 42.8 42.1 38.6

The New Party never monopolized what was later labeled as the Deep Blue vote. Some ROC nationalists remained in the KMT. Hung Hsiu-chu is a classic example. She was always friendly with the New Party (and later with the PFP), but she never left the KMT. Let’s make another wild assumption here and guess that the New Party vote represents 2/3 of the overall deep blue faction. If you take the highest of the three New Party measures (Lin/Hau’s 14.9%) and multiply it by 1.5, that implies a total deep blue vote of 22.4%. Of course, this would have varied from region to region. It also might have changed a bit in the past 20 years, but we’re making lots of crude assumptions so let’s not worry about that.

Next, let’s jump to 2012. Ma Ying-jeou won re-election with 51.6% of the vote, and this is the coalition that the KMT will be trying to defend next year. (Another assumption: Soong’s 2.8% is not part of the current KMT coalition.) If 22.4% is the deep blue wing, that leaves 29.3% as the light blue wing. I think it is reasonable to assume that Hung Hsiu-chu won’t have much trouble winning all of the deep blue votes. Her challenge will be to win the light blue votes. I’m not optimistic that she can do this as well as Ma did in 2012. So my next major assumption is that Hung will win 80% of the 2012 light blue votes. This would cost her 5.9% of the overall vote, leaving a final total of 45.8%.

District 2012 Ma Deep blue Light blue If 80% LB
National 51.6 22.4 29.3 45.8
Kinmen County 89.2 76.2 13.0 86.6
Taipei City 57.9 42.9 15.0 54.9
Taichung City 54.5 34.4 20.2 50.5
Matsu County 86.6 64.2 22.4 82.1
Hsinchu City 57.4 34.8 22.6 52.9
Kaohsiung City 45.9 21.0 24.9 40.9
Penghu County 49.8 24.8 25.0 44.8
Taipei County 53.7 27.2 26.6 48.4
Tainan County 37.0 10.1 27.0 31.6
Keelung City 59.3 31.4 27.9 53.7
Tainan City 43.8 15.5 28.4 38.1
Taoyuan County 57.2 27.6 29.6 51.3
Kaohsiung County 42.1 12.3 29.8 36.1
Taichung County 50.5 20.4 30.1 44.5
Yunlin County 41.7 11.0 30.7 35.5
Chiayi County 39.0 7.5 31.6 32.7
Chiayi City 46.3 14.6 31.7 39.9
Pingtung County 42.9 9.9 33.0 36.3
Ilan County 44.9 9.9 35.0 37.9
Nantou County 54.6 17.7 36.9 47.2
Changhua County 50.6 12.8 37.8 43.0
Hualien County 70.3 23.7 46.6 61.0
Hsinchu County 65.8 18.9 46.9 56.4
Miaoli County 63.8 13.7 50.2 53.8
Taitung County 66.5 16.0 50.5 56.4

45.8% would almost certainly make her a loser, but that’s not the main point of this exercise. The real value is in looking at some of the regional variations and thinking about their implications. If the KMT got 46%, what would that look like in various places? The following table shows the breakdown of deep blue and light blue by cities and counties (using the pre-2010 administrative lines). It is ordered by light blue votes. There are roughly four big categories.

Taipei City is alone at the top of the chart. (I am ignoring Kinmen and Matsu.) Only 15% of Taipei’s voters are light blue, by far the smallest proportion of any city or county. Taipei is highly polarized, with 42% deep blue, 42% green, and only a small (but decisive) proportion of light blue voters. If it seems that election results in Taipei are less volatile than everywhere else in Taiwan, this might be why. Hung’s nomination will not hurt the KMT much at all in Taipei since there are very few light blue voters to alienate. The second section, from (the old) Taichung City at 20.2% to Taoyuan at 29.6%, includes most of the other highly urbanized areas in Taiwan. These urban areas have lots of votes, and they have roughly as many deep blue voters as light blue voters. The third section, from Kaohsiung County at 29.8% to Changhua at 37.8%, covers most of the rural areas in central and southern Taiwan. In these areas light blue voters outnumber deep blue voters by about three to one. Finally, the four counties at the bottom of the table are located in the northern Hakka heartland and on the east coast. These areas have high proportions of Hakka and Aboriginal voters. These areas have always been reliable KMT strongholds, but Hakkas and Aborigines were never part of the New Party coalition. Hung can probably win over these votes, but she might need to spend a lot of time in these four counties to get that done.

The election will be won or lost in the second and third sections, which hold most of the country’s voters. Hung will be tempted to spend most her time and energy in the second group, which has a lot of deep blue votes. It is always more fun to preach to the choir. However, if she is serious about this election she will concentrate on the light blue voters, and that suggests she should spend a good amount of time in the third group. It will be interesting to watch where she goes over the next few weeks.

We can take this exercise even further. What if we extend this methodology to individual electoral districts? Of course presidential votes don’t translate directly into district votes, but neither are they completely unrelated. There are a couple of different ways to think of this. On the one hand, you might think of these numbers as the KMT presidential vote in the district. That is, a candidate running in a particular district has a certain partisan advantage (or disadvantage). The specific candidates in the race then build upon that base with their personal appeals. A candidate facing a big partisan deficit needs to build up a powerful personal appeal to overcome the partisan handicap. A candidate with a partisan advantage has a cushion of safety. On the other hand, you might think of this as an indication of district candidates losing an average of 20% of the light blue vote. In this case, we might imagine that Hung is actually losing 30% of the light blue vote, but that the average district vote can pull 10% back. I’m going to present these numbers as if the latter is the case, but you can think of them either way. Remember, these are not so much hard predictions as an effort to see vaguely how Hung’s candidacy might filter down to district elections.

The numbers in this section are a bit sloppier than in the previous section because I am lazy and wanted to save time. I used the Lin/Hau results instead of taking the maximum of the three races. Also, I did not bother to divide up townships. For townships that are split between two legislative districts (eg: most of Zhongli is in Taoyuan 3 but a minority is in Taoyuan 6), I put the whole township in the legislative district with most of that township (eg: all of Zhongli is placed in Taoyuan 3). Finally, I only looked at a subset of districts. I am most interested in districts that the KMT won in 2012 but that have a chance of changing hands in 2016. This is not an exhaustive list. The Nantou districts are omitted because Lin’s vote did not represent New Party strength; three southern districts are omitted because the DPP already has a clear partisan edge, and the Taipei districts are missing because they completely ignore administrative district boundaries. Still, I think these figures are interesting.

District 2012 Ma Deep blue Light blue If 80% LB
New Taipei 1 54.5 16.6 38.0 46.9
New Taipei 2 45.9 16.9 29.0 40.1
New Taipei 3 46.0 14.7 31.3 39.8
New Taipei 4 48.5 18.7 29.8 42.5
New Taipei 5 49.7 16.7 33.0 43.1
New Taipei 6/7 50.8 23.1 27.7 45.3
New Taipei 8 59.6 41.5 18.2 56.0
New Taipei 9 65.7 50.0 15.6 62.6
New Taipei 10 52.4 23.1 29.3 46.6
New Taipei 11 64.3 47.5 16.8 60.9
New Taipei 12 54.9 20.0 34.9 48.0
Taoyuan 1 54.4 24.0 30.4 48.3
Taoyuan 2 52.5 15.1 37.4 45.0
Taoyuan 3 60.7 33.5 27.2 55.2
Taoyuan 4 56.0 24.3 31.7 49.7
Taoyuan 5 60.9 27.9 33.0 54.3
Taoyuan 6 59.1 27.2 31.9 52.7
Miaoli 1 57.6 11.9 45.7 48.4
Miaoli 2 69.3 15.1 54.2 58.5
Taichung 1 50.6 12.9 37.7 43.1
Taichung 2 51.5 20.8 30.6 45.4
Taichung 3 49.7 20.1 29.6 43.8
Taichung 4 56.0 35.8 20.3 52.0
Taichung 5 55.7 38.2 17.4 52.2
Taichung 6 51.7 28.7 22.9 47.1
Taichung 7 50.7 30.8 19.8 46.7
Taichung 8 49.9 16.7 33.1 43.2
Changhua 1 49.4 12.5 36.9 42.0
Changhua 2 52.9 17.5 35.4 45.8
Changhua 3 49.4 9.0 40.4 41.3
Changhua 4 50.8 13.1 37.7 43.2
Kaohsiung 3 51.0 31.0 20.0 47.0
Pingtung 2 46.8 15.1 31.8 40.5

Remember, the DPP has to flip at least 12 seats to win a majority. They should easily flip Chiayi 1, Yunlin 1, and Kaohsiung 9, but the KMT should probably take back Taitung. So the DPP’s goal is to flip at least 10 other seats. This table shows the KMT under 50% in 19 seats that they currently hold (marked in red). A few are very close to 50% (four are above 48%), so it is by no means certain that the DPP could sweep these 19. Alternatively, 13 of them have the KMT with less than 46%; 4% is a big deficit to make up. In this version of the future, the KMT gets decimated in Taichung and Changhua, falling from 8 to only 2 of the 12 districts. It also suffers heavy losses in New Taipei and, incredibly, Taoyuan.

[Note: Hung Hsiu-chu’s home district is New Taipei 9. Notice the proportion of deep blues there.]

This is all very sloppy, and it rests on a stack of tenuous assumptions. However, if Hung Hsiu-chu really does drive the train off the cliff, this is what it might look like.

5 Responses to “If light blues are alienated…”

  1. Frank Says:

    Great posting. The assumption that Hung can keep 80% of the light-blue voters may be overly optimistic thou. But if it’s lower, it supports even more your analysis about KMT potential LY seats loss.

  2. yichen1987 Says:

    How do you think the influence of Minkuotang on light blue?

  3. Pat Says:

    Judging by Hung’s statements over the last few days this may actually wind up being the KMT’s best case scenario. Should be interesting to see whether or not the PFP try to contest more districts now; this could be a great opportunity for them.

  4. Can the DPP Win a Majority in the Legislature? | Thinking Taiwan Says:

    […] the party list votes, but more importantly capture districts outside of the south. As Nathan Batto points out, the DPP would need to turn at least 12 seats for a majority. Of course many factors influence […]

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