We’ve gotten used to survey results showing Tsai leading the presidential race by ridiculously large margins. (Try to imagine showing yourself from 2012 a poll showing the KMT nominee trailing by a margin of 45-20. The 2012 version of yourself would have accused the 2015 version of you of blatant lying!) We’re getting used to the idea that Tsai is going to win by a comfortable amount, and I think some people are tuning out the presidential poll numbers. The real action is in the legislative races, after all. Tsai’s huge lead in the presidential polls is a reflection of her strong individual appeals and of Chu’s unreadiness and inadequacy. It doesn’t mean that the DPP is really that much more popular than the KMT, right?
I went looking for some numbers to assuage KMT fears. In particular, I went back to those presidential polls. Some of those polls added a second question, asking respondents which party list they intended to vote for. (The data are from the Wikipedia pages for the presidential and legislative elections.) If it is all about the individual popularity of Tsai and Chu, the party list vote intentions should look different from the presidential vote intentions. Chu might be miserable, but the KMT party list should probably look a bit better.
Actually, it isn’t that easy. There are a lot of smaller parties running party lists, so instead of looking at DPP and KMT, I looked at the blue and green camps. (Blue=KMT, PFP, and New; Green=DPP, TSU, and NPP; all others were excluded.) Here are the blue camp results for eight polls:
|Org||Date||Blue president||Blue party list|
Support for the blue camp presidential candidates is almost exactly the same as support for the blue camp party lists. This is the case across all four polling organizations. It also holds whether the blue camps numbers were high or low. If I’m the KMT, this looks terrifying. It doesn’t seem to be the case at all that there are a lot of people who won’t vote for Eric Chu but who will vote for the KMT party list. To the extent that those people exist, they are coming from the (small) Soong camp, not the (big) Tsai camp.
Here is what the data look like on the green side:
|Org||Date||green president||Green party list|
There is a bit more difference in these two columns. Since late October, Tsai has usually run about 3% ahead of all the green party lists. However, that’s still not a huge gap. There just don’t seem to be a lot of Tsai supporters whose party list votes aren’t being absorbed by one of the green camp parties.
What does this mean? When you see a presidential poll with Tsai enjoying a ridiculously large lead, don’t assume that only matters for that one single race. The presidential vote seems to reflect the broader partisan divide, at least at the party list vote level. Of course, since the presidential candidates are prominent party leaders, it might not be that surprising that many votes might decide which list to vote on based on which presidential candidate they like best. However, the KMT hopes are based on the possibility that voters see the KMT as something distinct from (and bigger and broader than) Eric Chu. They might, but that difference doesn’t seem to cross the center dividing line. Blue is blue, and green is green. Given the huge green leads in recent polls, that could be disastrous for the KMT.
Of course, what we really care about are the district races, not the party list races. The balance of power in the LY will be determined by the 79 district and indigenous seats, not the 34 list seats. In the district races, the KMT is banking on its 40 incumbents and their years of intensive constituency service to be able to cross that central dividing line. I expect that many of them will, in fact, be able to run ahead of their party. However, based on evidence from the presidential and party list polls, the central dividing line may have shifted so far in the green camp’s favor that even strong KMT local candidates could be swamped by the underlying partisan structure.
I keep searching for good news for the KMT, but I keep finding signs of an impending disaster. I just can’t seem to find any good reasons for the KMT to be optimistic.