Kharis Templeman has taken a crack at predicting the legislative election outcome, and he has made some interesting points. Some of these points suggest that my previous analysis is misguided, so I went back to the data to see what I would find.
(Note to readers: We academics love it when someone says we are wrong. It challenges us to recheck and rethink our conclusions. Also, if you get into a long, drawn out argument in published articles, both people’s citation counts go up. Everyone wins! If you don’t know Kharis, he’s a smart guy who is going to be an important voice in Taiwan studies for years to come. Now, here’s why he is completely wrong!)
The biggest point he slams me for is a bit off key. I have previously stated that I expect KMT district candidates to run a bit ahead of the KMT presidential candidates in 2016. Kharis looks at the 2012 results and finds that KMT district candidates actually ran behind Ma. He concludes that, if 2012 is anything like 2016, there is no reason to expect that KMT district candidates will run ahead of the presidential candidate. Note the caveat. My implicit assumption has always been that 2016 won’t be anything like 2012, but I suppose it is my fault for not stating that explicitly. 2012 divided almost as perfectly as one could expect along blue/green lines. If you voted for a blue candidate for president, you almost certainly also voted for a blue party on the party list vote, and you probably voted for a blue district candidate. There were some deviations at the district level, but these were relatively minor. Moreover, Ma mostly marginalized Soong in the presidential election. Ma got most of the blue votes, and KMT district candidates also soaked up most of these blue votes. I don’t expect 2016 to look like this. The problem isn’t with the district candidates; the problem is with the KMT presidential candidates. Because first Hung and now Chu are such weak candidates, I doubt they will be able to absorb all voters sympathetic to the blue side. Some will defect to Soong, and some will defect to Tsai. Rather than saying I expect the KMT legislative candidates to run ahead of Chu, maybe I should say that I expect Chu to run behind them. The blue/green divide might be somewhere around 40-55 right now. I think blue district candidates will collectively be at or slightly above that 40 (or whatever it is), but I expect Chu will be quite a bit below it.
What about the point that KMT candidates ran further behind Ma than DPP candidates ran behind Tsai?
First, a bit of methods. I consider the “independents” in Taichung 2 and Penghu to be KMT candidates. I don’t consider the two candidates the DPP supported in Taoyuan 6 and Taipei 7 to be unofficial DPP members in quite the same way, but I’ll include them in the DPP totals for the sake of this exercise. This yields KMT candidates in all 73 districts and DPP candidates in all but Kinmen and Lienchiang. There might also be a few other minor discrepancies in our data. (ex: Tsai got 25.9% in Hualien, not 29.9%.)
Anyway, my initial results are a bit like Kharis’s. For all 73 districts, I show the KMT candidates running slightly more behind:
KMT: -3.7% DPP: -0.7%
Like Kharis, my next move is to divide up the data into districts that can be more easily compared. There are four districts that should simply be thrown away since the DPP didn’t nominate any candidates in Kinmen, Lienchiang, Taipei 7, and Taoyuan 6. There are also many districts in which third party candidates got lots of votes. I divide the data set by looking at the two party vote, creating categories for districts in which the two parties got more than 95% of the total vote, 90-94.9%, and 70-89.9%.
In the true two party races, the two major parties are about even. (This is quite a bit different from Kharis’s numbers. I don’t know why.) They each soak up all of the support from their respective party’s presidential candidate. The KMT’s problem was with third party candidates. When these candidates won significant amounts of votes, they tended to steal more KMT votes than DPP votes. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been watching Taiwanese electoral politics for the past thirty years. Independent candidates’ votes have traditionally come out of the KMT’s pool of votes.
We can further break down those 48 true two party races by looking at districts with KMT incumbents, DPP incumbents, and no incumbents. (Note: I coded incumbents from memory, so there might be some errors.)
Predictably, incumbents tend to run ahead of their presidential candidates. Nine of the ten DPP incumbents in two party races ran ahead of Tsai. (The tenth was Chen Ming-wen in Chiayi 2 who barely bothered campaigning.) The KMT incumbents were not quite as impressive. 23 of the 30 ran ahead of Ma. However, four of the seven who did not ended up losing (Changhua 4, Penghu, Taichung 6, and Kaohsiung 8). Incumbents don’t always beat challengers, but, in general, you’d rather your party had an incumbent than have to challenge one. This is why the KMT’s biggest advantage this year is that it is running 40 incumbents. Many of these will be in districts that Tsai will win decisively. Some of those will lose, but the KMT’s hope is that a handful will be able to overcome the partisan disadvantage and rely on their personal popularity to stay in office.
Kharis suggests that the DPP’s magic number for a legislative majority is roughly 57% of the presidential vote. This is obtained by looking at New Taipei 10 (which I also think is a likely candidate for the 57th DPP seat). In 2012, Tsai lost to Ma in New Taipei 10, by 52.4-44.8%. If you look at Ma + Soong, Tsai lost by a margin of 55.2-44.8, or 10.4%. Kharis suggests that to make up this deficit, Tsai needs to increase her national vote from 45.6% by 10.4% plus an additional 0.8% because DPP candidates ran slightly behind her in 2012 to reach the magic 57%. However, I think he is assuming that the KMT vote share stays the same. If so, this means that the DPP would win New Taipei 10 by a margin of 56.0% to 55.2%, which is mathematically impossible. Obviously, if Tsai goes up 10%, the blue camp vote is going to have to go down by 10%. 57% nationally for Tsai with very little split ticket voting (as Kharis suggests is likely) will yield a sizeable majority for the DPP. Actually, if you assume away split ticket voting, 52% would probably be enough. However, incumbents do matter, so I think the DPP’s national vote will probably have to be a bit higher than 52%. My guess is that 53-4% would do it. That number is not entirely pulled out of thin air. If you look at this post, New Taipei 10 stays with the KMT if the gap between the two big parties is 5% (roughly 52.5-47.5%) but flips to the DPP when the gap grows to 7% (or 53.5-46.5%). If the DPP got the magic 57% (a gap of 14%), that model suggests the DPP will win around 52-56 district seats. (Note: This 57% is assumed to only be adjusted for a modest incumbency advantage. It does not assume that Tsai would win any blue camp votes.)