Are there hordes of latent Han supporters?

Pundits have been obsessed with the idea that all the undecided votes are actually latent Han supporters. There is no evidence for this, but they need some rationalization to argue that the race is closer than it appears since everyone has an interest in claiming the race is close and exciting. The recent Apple Daily, United Daily News, and TVBS polls all showed similar leads of 12-13% for Tsai. However, Apple had 32% undecided, UDN had 28% undecided, and TVBS had 9% undecided. The TVBS results suggest that those 28-32% undecided in the Apple and UDN polls are not overwhelmingly latent Han supporters. In fact, a better guess is that they have about the same proportion of latent Han and Tsai supporters (which — imagine this!! — is always the best assumption for voters who tell you they can’t make up their minds).

 

One reason TVBS gets 91% of respondents offering an opinion is that they employ a filter question. 13% of their full sample say that they do not plan to vote, so TVBS doesn’t ask those voters who they plan to vote for. This suggests that most of the undecideds are going to be non-voters rather than latent Han supporters. If we multiply the 52-39% results by .87 to put those voters back into the sample, we get a 45-34% Tsai lead. That leaves 21% of all voters undecided, which is still considerably lower than the Apple or UDN estimates. Since Tsai’s lead is still roughly similar, we still aren’t seeing much evidence of latent Han support.

 

There is another reason that pundits (especially those who prefer the KMT) are convinced the race is actually closer than the polls say. The results for the party list vote consistently paint the KMT in a better light. For example, here are the results from the recent TVBS poll on who respondents expect to vote for in the party list category:

KMT 37
DPP 25
TPP 12
NPP 8
PFP 2
New .8
Green .8
TSU .2
Other 1.5
undecided 12

The KMT has a 12 point lead in this race!! It must be extremely popular!! And the DPP is way down at 25% Clearly voters don’t actually like the DPP!

Let me reproduce that table, but this time I’m going to cut a few of the rows and add a few columns.

 

  Party List Vote Party ID Presidential Vote
KMT 37 30 39
DPP 25 22 52
TPP 12 13  
NPP 8 6  
PFP 2 ?  
Others/none 26 29 9

The TVBS numbers for the KMT are a lot less impressive in context. The TVBS sample includes 30% KMT identifiers and only 22% DPP identifiers. This distribution is not what most other polls are finding. For comparison, the recent Formosa poll includes 19.4% KMT identifiers and 27.1% DPP identifiers. We cannot know which one is closer to the actual number of KMT or DPP identifiers in the full population of voters, but the TVBS sample is clearly a better-case scenario for the KMT. It looks as if the 30% of people who identify with the KMT expect to vote for the KMT in both the presidential and party list races – and very few other voters will join them. The DPP also wins its identifiers and not many more in the party list vote, but it has an enormous coalition of all anti-Han (anti-KMT?) votes in the presidential election. If anything, this table makes me think that those 26% undecided in the party list section and the 29% undecided in the party ID category are likely to break disproportionately for the DPP. That is, the undecideds might actually have more latent DPP sympathizers than latent Han votes.

 

Ok, here’s another angle. TVBS asks a couple policy questions. One says, “Han Kuo-yu has criticized the [DPP’s revision of the] Labor Standards Law as harmful to both bosses and labor, and he wants to discuss further revisions to this law. Generally speaking, do you favor exploring further revisions to [the current] system?” 50% are in favor, and 27% are opposed.

The second question reads, “Han Kuo-yu has recently criticized the Executive Yuan’s decision to extend the high speed rail line to Pingtung as an ‘Appendix Line,’ and he promises to reconsider this extension if he is elected. Do you agree with scrapping the Executive Yuan’s decision to extend the high speed rail line to Pingtung and reconsidering the route? 42% agree and 28% disagree.

If you want to see public support for the KMT’s policy positions in these answers, you certainly can. Far more people agree with the KMT’s positions than with the DPP’s positions. However, there are a few reasons to be skeptical. First, these questions are designed to capture all dissatisfaction with the current policies. They only ask whether you would like to reconsider the policies, not whether you want to a specific alternative. A more neutral question would have stated the KMT’s position and asked whether respondents preferred the KMT position or the DPP position. Second, a pork-barrel project like the high speed rail extension isn’t designed to get mass approval. Of course people in Taipei are against it: they have to contribute taxes but don’t get very much benefit. However, people in Taipei are fairly unlikely to base their vote on the high speed rail extension. People in the south, in contrast, will be much more affected, and it might actually sway some of their votes. This is a classic case of diffuse costs and concentrated benefits. Third, why did TVBS choose these issues? Why didn’t they ask questions about whether respondents prefer the KMT or DPP versions of pension reform or whether respondents support the purchase of F-16 fighter jets from the USA? There are a lot of policy questions out there, and these results are only a small fraction of the relevant ones.

 

To sum up, if it makes you happy to insist that the race is actually a lot closer than the polls suggest, go ahead. However, you are either cherry picking the data or ignoring it completely.

 

 

 

5 Responses to “Are there hordes of latent Han supporters?”

  1. beidawei Says:

    Say, whatever happened to the KPP?

  2. Mr. Wang Says:

    So, you’re saying there’s a chance…

  3. Jerry Says:

    The numbers don’t add up in the party list vote. Shouldn’t the others/none be 16% instead of 26%?

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