Archive for the ‘2016 president’ Category

Do young people vote?

September 20, 2019

Every now and then, someone asks me whether young voters in Taiwan actually turn out to vote. There is an enormous difference in political preferences between young and old voters, so difference in turnout could matter quite a lot. The polls in the current presidential race show a fairly close contest between Tsai and Han among voters over 40, but Tsai crushes Han among voters in their 20s and 30s. Will those young voters actually show up to the polls?

My stock answer is that we don’t have good data on turnout because Taiwan doesn’t allow exit polling. Conventional polls have their uses, but turnout is one of their glaring weaknesses. Respondents in pre-election surveys overwhelmingly tell you that they will vote, and respondents in post-election polls report much higher turnout behavior than we actually see at the precincts. One problem is that respondents may not accurately report their behavior. A bigger problem is probably that conventional polls do not reach a large number of potential voters. For example, people who work during the evening or do not answer phone calls from strange numbers never enter the sample. Likewise, people who live outside the country but come back to vote just aren’t ever polled. Young people, who tend to live more unsettled lives, are especially prone to being unsampled. Pollsters try to make up for this by weighting the data, but weighting is a second-best solution. The ideal way to study turnout is through an exit poll, in which voters are sampled as they leave the precinct. Exit polling provides an accurate sample of the voting electorate, since it samples from the population of all voters. We can then compare that sample to the full electorate, which we know quite a bit about from aggregate government statistics. Unfortunately, the government decided about 15 years ago that exit polling interferes with election administration and/or gives voters the impression of being harassed at the ballot box. There were two exit polls conducted, one for the 1998 Taipei mayoral election and one for the 2004 presidential election. After the latter exit poll, the Interior Ministry banned any further exit polls. It has not shown any indications of willingness to revisit this decision. Taiwan takes election administration pretty seriously.

However, all is not lost. We actually do have a pretty good look at turnout by sex and age in the 2016 presidential election.  A few years ago, Taiwan passed a law promoting gender equality, so all government agencies have to keep tabs and write reports on the current status of gender breakdowns both in their own work and in the populations they serve, and they have to show that they are trying to address any current gender discrimination. The Central Election Commission used this mandate to commission a study on turnout differences among men and women. The study was conducted by my close friend Chuang Wen-jong 莊文忠, at Shih Hsin University and our mentor Hung Yung-tai 洪永泰, who is emeritus at NTU. They sampled 230 neighborhoods (村里), which collectively had just over 200,000 voters. They were then given special permission – since this study was for the purpose of fulfilling a legal mandate – to look at the demographics of who turned out in these neighborhoods. When you go to vote, your ID is checked against a voter roll which contains your name, address, sex, and date of birth. They did not collect names or addresses (for both privacy and budgetary reasons), but they did get age, sex, and whether or not someone picked up a ballot for about 200,000 randomly sampled voters. (Note: They did not get any information on how the person voted. We didn’t learn anything in this study about whether they voted for Tsai, Chu, Soong, or cast an invalid vote. This study was useful, but we could learn a lot more from a true exit poll.)


Before I tell you about the results, let’s get a little context. What does the USA look like? Michael McDonald (University of Florida and fellow UCSD grad) has put together some nice charts about turnout in American elections, and I’ve copied the relevant chart below. Ignore the midterm elections and try to focus your attention on the presidential elections by connecting the top dots in each zig-zag line. Turnout in the oldest group (age 60 and up) is usually about 30% higher than turnout in the youngest group (age 18-29). This is an enormous difference, and American politicians have traditionally responded by catering to the wishes of senior citizens while ignoring the demands of young voters. In some cases (most famously former Florida Senator Claude Pepper), this was explicit and unapologetic.


How about Taiwan? Is there an age gap? If so, is it as dramatic as the American age gap?

Since this study is officially about gender, I should probably start by noting that in the 2016 presidential election, they found that turnout among women was 67.2% and only 64.8% among men. That is, women’s turnout was higher by 2.4%.

Figure 5.2 (p81) is the essence of their research. (I can’t figure out how to copy it, but it’s a pretty chart. Download the report and look at it!) This figure shows turnout among men and women from each age. First-time voters tend to vote at slightly higher rates with the lowest turnout rates occurring in the mid 20s. From this trough, there is a long increase until the peak in the late 60s and early 70s. From there, turnout rates decline dramatically, falling much quicker among old women than old men.

There are no numbers on this chart, so you have to eyeball things. To get more concrete numbers, I downloaded their data from the CEC website and calculated some group means. Turnout for the full sample was 63.1%. To compare directly to the American data, I cut the data into five groups:

Age group Turnout % of electorate % of actual voters
20-29 52.9 17.1 14.3
30-39 54.9 20.3 17.6
40-49 61.3 19.1 18.5
50-59 69.7 19.3 21.3
60 and up 73.6 24.2 28.2

The difference in turnout between the youngest group and the oldest group was 20.7%. This is a large gap, but not nearly as large as the roughly 30% age gap found in American elections. Still, while there are only about 40% more eligible voters in the oldest group than the youngest group, the oldest group produced nearly twice as many actual votes as the youngest group. That’s a pretty big effect.

These five age categories are useful for comparing Taiwan to the USA, but lumping all senior citizens together in one enormous group hides quite a bit of variation. As Figure 5.2 shows, turnout for some ages is higher that the age group average of 73.6% and markedly lower for other ages. So instead of five groups, let’s cut the data into fifteen groups.

Age group Turnout % of electorate % of actual voters
20-24 53.2 8.8 7.4
25-29 52.5 8.3 6.9
30-34 53.9 9.9 8.4
35-39 55.7 10.4 9.2
40-44 59.5 9.3 8.7
45-49 63.0 9.8 9.8
50-54 68.0 10.1 10.9
55-59 71.5 9.3 10.5
60-64 75.0 8.0 9.5
65-69 78.7 5.2 6.4
70-74 78.6 3.6 4.5
75-79 74.4 3.2 3.8
80-84 66.9 2.2 2.4
85-89 56.2 1.3 1.2
90 and up 40.2 0.6 0.4

The lowest turnout is found in the 25-29 group, at 52.5%, while the highest turnout is in the 65-69 group, at 78.7%. While there are about 60% more eligible voters in the 25-29 group, they only produce about 8% more votes.


We should probably note that these data are from the 2016 election, which came in wake of the 2014 Sunflower Movement. Compared to other election years, young people were probably extremely motivated and excited in 2016. That is, there is good reason to suspect that the age gap was larger in previous elections (and that it will be larger this year).

Alternatively, 2016 had relatively low turnout compared to past presidential elections. Official turnout was 66.3% in 2016, while the highest turnout was 82.7% in 2000. The only way to get to a number like 82.7% is for turnout to go up in all groups, but since there isn’t as much room to increase in the older groups, the increase almost certainly had to be disproportionally concentrated among the younger cohorts. That is, mathematical necessities suggest that there is good reason to suspect that the age gap was smaller in high turnout years like 2000 and 2004 than in low turnout years like 2016.

In conclusion, who the hell knows what turnout among different age groups looked like in previous elections?!? This is why we need data.


What we can say with a reasonable amount of confidence is that there was a sizeable gap – about 25% – in turnout in 2016 between older and younger voters.


2016 election data

January 23, 2016

I know all of you have been waiting breathlessly for a neatly organized spreadsheet of the presidential and legislative elections broken down by legislative districts, so here it is! Start analyzing, and let me know if you find anything interesting.

2016 LY prez by LY district

Did blue voters stay home?

January 18, 2016

Turnout was lower than many expected. The previous low for turnout in a presidential election was 74.4% (in 2012), but this time turnout dropped to 66.3%. Some drop was expected, since the presidential race was not close and because the election was scheduled so near to the Lunar New Year holiday and university students’ final exams. However, many people have also speculated that a disproportionate number of demoralized blue voters would stay at home. We’ll never have a definitive answer to whether this was the case because we don’t have exit polls. The post-election academic surveys will provide some evidence, but those won’t be release for several months.

In the meantime, we can look for crude patterns in the district-level turnout data. If the hypothesis is correct, we should probably see larger drops in turnout in blue districts than in green districts. I’m going to use the number of valid votes to calculate turnout. (The actual figure includes both valid and invalid votes. These numbers are now available on the CEC website, but I’m going to save time and just use valid votes. Arguably, valid votes are a better indicator, since many disgruntled blue voters may have cast invalid votes.) Overall, turnout in the 73 districts dropped from 74.0% to 65.2%, a drop of 9.2%. However, some dropped more. For example, Hsinchu County dropped 12.4% and New Taipei 9 dropped 12.0%. Some dropped less, such as Chiayi County 1 (6.0%) and Pingtung 2 (6.8%). Not coincidentally, Hsinchu County and New Taipei 9 are very blue, while Chiayi County 1 and Pingtung 2 are very green. Those examples are not misleading, though the pattern is not usually quite so stark. The correlation between the drop in turnout and Tsai’s 2012 vote share in the 73 districts is 0.55, a very strong relationship. However, much of that is driven by Kinmen and Lienchiang, where lower turnout was probably driven by a surge in household registrations by people who don’t actually live there. If we only look at the other 71 districts, the correlation is 0.26, which is still quite impressive for such a crude test. Thus, there is some evidence for the hypothesis that blue voters disproportionately stayed home.

However, let’s not overdo it. There are some people who seem to think that this was the main cause of the KMT’s defeat. There is simply no way that a drop of less than 10% in turnout can make up for a 25% gap in the presidential vote or even a gap of about 13% in the average legislative district race. Remember, many of those people who didn’t vote would have voted for the green side, so you can’t simply add 9.2% to the KMT’s total. There might have been a pattern, but it certainly did not drive the overall result. The KMT’s disaster cannot simply be blamed on poor turnout.

A victory for diversity

January 17, 2016

I’m really too exhausted to write anything in depth about the election results. So instead of a full recap, let me just touch on diversity and pluralism. Taiwan has set new highs in both the proportion of women and indigenous legislators.

By my count, 43 of the 113 legislators will be women. That makes 38.1%. Around the world, the top three countries for percentage of women in the national parliament are Rwanda, Bolivia, and Cuba. Um, how do I say this politely? Those are not exactly the countries we want to emulate. Let’s restrict the comparison to only countries that are rated as “free” in the latest Freedom House report. Of these, Taiwan now places 10th in the world in the proportion of women in its national legislature. Moreover, of the top 20 countries, only Norway, Germany, and now Taiwan also have a female head of government. This places Taiwan as a world leader for gender equality in the political realm. Moreover, it is notable that Tsai is not from a political family. Unlike almost all other Asian female leaders, Tsai did not inherit her power. In fact, Tsai is not unique among female politicians in Taiwan. Former VP Annette Lu, Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, and vice-speaker and erstwhile KMT presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu also rose to very powerful positions in the political structure, and none of them came from a political family.


Rank Country % Female Female Head of Government
1 Sweden 43.6
2 Senegal 42.7
3 South Africa 42.0
4 Finland 41.5
5 Iceland 41.3
6 Spain 41.1
7 Norway 39.6 Yes
8 Andorra 39.3
8 Belgium 39.3
10 Taiwan (post-election) 38.1 Yes
11 Denmark 37.4
12 Netherland 37.3
13 Slovenia 36.7
14 Germany 36.5 Yes
15 Serbia 34.0
16 Costa Rica 33.3
16 Grenada 33.3
18 El Salvador 32.1
19 Switzerland 32.0
20 New Zealand 31.4
United Kingdom 29.4
Canada 25.8
United States 19.4
Korea 16.3 Yes
Japan 9.5


This has been a gradual process. Women have slowly built their share of seats over the past 25 years. This gives me confidence that women are winning real power and that those gains are sustainable.


district list all women total seats % women
1992 12 5 17 161 10.6%
1995 19 4 23 164 14.0%
1998 35 8 43 225 19.1%
2001 39 11 50 225 22.2%
2004 32 15 47 225 20.9%
2008 17 17 34 113 30.1%
2012 20 18 38 113 33.6%
2016 25 18 43 113 38.1%


This year is also a milestone for indigenous representation. In addition to the six legislators elected from indigenous districts, two others were elected on the DPP and NPP party lists. Eight indigenous legislators is not a record in the absolute sense, but does mark a new high in the percentage of seats held by indigenous legislators.

district list all indigenous total seats % indigenous
1992 6 0 6 161 3.7%
1995 6 1 7 164 4.3%
1998 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2001 8 2 10 225 4.4%
2004 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2008 6 1 7 113 6.2%
2012 6 0 6 113 5.3%
2016 6 2 8 113 7.1%


In most countries, if there are seats reserved for indigenous people, the goal is to allow them to be represented in numbers proportional to their share of the overall population. In other words, the goal is to prevent them from being underrepresented. Taiwan has made a different choice. In Taiwan, voters with indigenous status make up about 1.5% of the population, but they now hold over7% of the seats in the national legislature. Taiwan has chosen to significantly over-represent indigenous people.

This effort to give voice to women and minorities speaks to the pride that Taiwanese have in their diverse and pluralistic society.



On a related note, the DPP has set a party record for performance in indigenous districts, and by quite a margin.

DPP valid vote share seats won
1992 3769 113164 3.3% 0
1995 3555 130769 2.7% 0
1998 9676 136387 7.1% 0
2001 10048 155888 6.4% 0
2004 14149 144827 9.8% 1
2008 10130 149880 6.8% 0
2012 9968 214843 4.6% 0
2016 33710 207572 16.2% 1

Since we’re talking about DPP records, they set a new high for presidential elections in all of the 22 cities and counties. In fact, they beat their previous high for any type of election (presidential, mayoral, legislative) in 11 of the 22 cities and counties.

prez % Any race % 2016
Taipei 2004 43.5 1998 mayor 45.9 52.0 **
New Taipei 2004 46.9 2001 mayor 51.3 54.8 **
Taoyuan 2004 44.7 1997 mayor 56.2 51.0 *
Taichung 2004 50.0 2014 mayor 57.1 55.0 *
Tainan 2004 62.0 2014 mayor 72.9 67.5 *
Kaohsiung 2004 56.9 2014 mayor 68.1 63.4 *
Yilan 2004 57.7 2014 mayor 64.0 62.1 *
Hsinchu County 2004 35.9 1989 mayor 51.1 42.5 **
Miaoli 2004 39.3 2004 prez 39.3 45.5 **
Changhua 2004 52.3 2014 mayor 53.7 56.5 **
Nantou 2004 48.8 1995 LY 50.7 52.2 **
Yunlin 2004 60.3 2009 mayor 65.4 63.4 *
Chiayi County 2004 62.8 2014 mayor 63.1 65.4 **
Pingtung 2004 58.1 2014 mayor 62.9 63.5 **
Taitung 2004 34.5 2009 mayor 47.4 36.9 *
Hualien 2004 29.8 1997 mayor 43.2 38.4 *
Penghu 2004 49.5 2014 mayor 55.3 50.8 *
Keelung 2004 40.6 2014 mayor 53.2 48.2 *
Hsinchu City 2004 44.9 1997 mayor 56.1 51.2 *
Chiayi City 2004 56.1 2004 prez 56.1 59.9 **
Kinmen 2012 8.2 2012 prez 8.2 18.0 **
Matsu 2012 8.0 2012 prez 8.0 16.5 **

*DPP record high for presidential races; ** DPP record high for any election


I’ll dig more into the results over the next few days. For now, let me just say that this was a tremendous electoral victory for the DPP and a devastating defeat for the KMT.





A thought for the losing side

January 16, 2016

Four years ago on election day, I posted the following message. It is fun and easy to be on the winning side, so if your candidate wins tonight, enjoy the win and be happy. This message is for the people who won’t be as happy tonight. Democracy depends on people being willing to lose, and tonight it is your turn to shoulder the burden of making democracy work. I thank you in advance for courageously accepting this responsibility.

A message to the losing side.



Frozen Garlic’s flag fetish

January 15, 2016

It’s possible I may have gone overboard this year. I can’t help it. We are living in a golden age for handheld campaign flags. The big ones out on the streets are a dying breed, but the percentage of candidates handing out small flags at rallies has never been higher. So it has been a banner year (pun intended) for the Frozen Garlic flag museum.

I think this is every unique flag I have collected this year. Of course, when you go to as many rallies as I have this year, you inevitably have a lot of duplicates, especially for the presidential candidates.

Let’s start with the presidential candidates.

Tsai Ing-wen’s flags are pretty blah, to be quite blunt. The three printed by her campaign have dull colors and not much in the way of an interesting design. It’s no wonder that the other day her official website had a picture of people waving bright green flags printed by the local Yunlin campaign team.

The two upright flags were printed by Su Bing’s 史明 office, which is why one of them has a picture of the eminent historian.



Eric Chu’s campaign has a much more colorful set of flags. There are two basic designs, the One Taiwan logo and the camouflage rainbow design. The yellow flag was printed by the Luo Ming-tsai campaign in New Taipei 11. And yes, the flag in the middle is a partisan campaign flag.



Here are some flags from the PFP/MKT collaboration. My first thought when I saw the upper left logo was that they were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It turns out that was exactly their thought. It symbolizes reconciling different opinions, which I think is a fantastic image for a society that takes pride in pluralism and diversity.



I really like the Free Taiwan Party’s dove logo. I tried a couple times to get a SDP or Green Party flag, but they didn’t print enough. Damn environmentalists with mislaid priorities.



Ok, now we turn to the legislative candidates. These three rows are from Taipei 3, Taipei 4, and Taipei 5. This is all of the main candidates, plus You Jui-min.



Here are a few candidates from Taipei 6 and Taipei 8. I’m not a big fan of the Lai facebook “like” flag or the nondescript Lee flag. However, I do appreciate the two flags that actually look like KMT flags. You’ll notice how rare these are, even in districts that have always been deep blue.



Candidates from New Taipei 1, 3, 4, and 6. I’m not a big fan of any of these designs.



New Taipei 10, 11, and 12. I admire Lu Chia-chen’s unabashed KMT flag screaming ROC at the top, but it might be ill-advised in his district. Luo Ming-tsai in New Taipei 11 could easily display his KMT pride, but instead he went the cowardly and tried to hide his party affiliation. I have a few Lee Ching-hua flags from years past, and I think they are all just about this creative.



The Taoyuan flags. I don’t care for the yellow DPP flags. Which party are you? I could ask the same question of the red and purple KMT flags. Chen Lai Su-mei’s flag might be my favorite flag this year. I love the unabashed deep green and the unique design. In a year in which almost all DPP flags look a bit similar, this one stands out. I especially love the rays shooting out from the DPP logo. It reminds me of the old Japanese military flag, and I love the idea of her deliberately but discreetly enraging some die-hard Chinese nationalist with her campaign flag.



The race here in Keelung. Hau wins the battle for most unique flags by a single legislative candidate. I kinda like his 1970s retro look. The DPP flag is pathetically generic. Yuck.



Hsinchu City and Miaoli. I like the two Miaoli flags. Purple and green is a really nice combination. The DPP has used purple heavily in the past, but this is the only one I’ve seen this year.



Some flags from Taichung and Changhua. Hung Tsu-yung is the only person to use the square flag this year. I’m amused that there is a picture of her waving a flag, but that flag is not her campaign flag. I can’t stand the two white DPP flags from Changhua. It’s like they went to the neighborhood flag store and bought the cheapest one.



Finally, five of the six major candidates from Chiayi.  I’m particularly disgusted by these horrible DPP flags. These are safe green districts; they could use a splash of deep green on them. Look at the flag for Tsai Yi-yu, in the upper left. Does it look like Tsai Ing-wen has gained a little weight? The more you look at that, the worse the photoshop effort looks.





January 14, 2016

What are the expectations for Saturday night when the votes are counted? I’m going to try to give an overview of the range of expectations as well as my personal expectations. Remember, we’re all guessing here, and all of us will be at least a little wrong.


There is a wide divergence among expectations, but the first thing to note is that everyone expects Tsai Ing-wen to win the presidential election. Taiwan throws out a shocking electoral result every now and then, but it would be beyond shocking for Tsai to lose. The presidential race has been heavily surveyed, and all the polls agreed that Tsai was way ahead. Perhaps even more importantly, all the secondary evidence supports this conclusion. The party ID numbers, the numbers from the legislative races, President Ma’s satisfaction ratings, the hints from KMT legislators who are acting like they are in trouble, and so on all suggest that the DPP is well ahead in the presidential race.


I think most people expect Tsai to get an outright majority, and the question is just how big that majority will be. From the diehard deep blue camp, there are some people who think there is a possibility of holding Tsai under 50%. The extreme optimists also think that Chu will break 40%, leaving the margin of victory at under 10%. On the other side, there are deep green optimists who are thinking about Tsai’s big lead in the polls and counting on a low turnout among demoralized blue camp voters. The most extreme of these might put Tsai’s vote share in the low 60s. I am expecting Tsai to end up somewhere around 58%. A good friend of mine disagreed with that, pointing out that Tsai’s polling numbers are not as good as Ma’s were in 2008, so he expects her to end up closer to 53 or 54%. It is a reasonable objection, and my impression is that most people’s expectations fall in that 53-58% range.

What of Chu and Soong? At one extreme, there is a possibility that Soong will outpoll Chu. This would be a pretty shocking result, but it isn’t unfathomable. At the other extreme, Soong’s support could evaporate and flow toward the two main candidates. In this scenario, Soong would be left with 5% or so, and Chu would end up close to 40%. I don’t think that will happen, however. There is very little incentive to vote strategically if you don’t think the gap between the top two candidates is small. This year, everyone thinks Tsai is far ahead, so Soong supporters don’t really have any expectation that they can change the outcome by throwing their support to Chu or Tsai. I expect them to stay with Soong. In fact, I think the opposite effect is perhaps more likely. Erstwhile KMT supporters might take out their frustrations with the KMT’s past four years by casting a protest vote for Soong. My guess is that Chu and Soong will split the 42% that doesn’t vote for Tsai roughly two to one. So let’s say, Tsai 58%, Chu 27%, and Soong 15%. I feel much more confident about the first number than the second and third numbers.


What about the legislature? Again, let’s start with the most optimistic expectations I have heard for the blue side. I have heard a couple of people say that they think the expectation for the KMT should be about 48-52 seats (out of a total of 113). To put it another way, the KMT should only end up within 3 or 4 seats of the DPP. In this group’s most optimistic scenario, the KMT could get as many as 55 seats, which would put it in a position to form a majority coalition with independents or sympathetic smaller parties. My friends with this view thought that a bad result for the KMT would be in the low 40s or even the high 30s.

At the other extreme, people who think that Tsai is going to break 60% also see the DPP headed for a landslide in the legislature. One person suggested that this year will be the mirror image of 2008, with the KMT only managing 27 seats. A few other people I know also think the KMT will end up with fewer than 30 seats.

These are wildly divergent expectations. My own expectation falls between them, though it is still clearly worse than the disaster outcome for the blue optimists. I’m expecting the KMT to end up in the mid-30s.


How is it possible for so many smart people to have such divergent expectations? There are, in fact, good reasons. First, we are in a period of flux in public opinion. KMT party ID has unraveled quite a bit in the past four years, but we still haven’t settled into a new equilibrium. We don’t know if all those erstwhile KMT supporters will angrily punish the KMT or if they will, holding back tears of frustration, mark their ballots for the KMT because they simply can’t stomach the idea of a DPP government. Second, we don’t have good survey data on legislative races. The surveys were spotty, and the results weren’t always stable from one survey to the next. Unlike the presidential race, we don’t have very powerful expectations. Third, most of the tossup races feature a KMT incumbent in a district that used to favor the KMT but will probably go heavily for Tsai this year. We don’t know whether the KMT incumbents’ years of hard work doing constituency service will be enough to overcome the partisan deficit.


I have divided the 73 districts into five categories. This is entirely my subjective judgment, and a few of them are sure to be wrong.


Safe green Lean green tossup Lean blue Safe blue
Tainan 2 New Taipei 5 New Taipei 7    
Tainan 1 New Taipei 6 Taichung 2 New Taipei 8 Taipei 8
Pingtung 3 Taoyuan 2 Pingtung 2 Hualien Taipei 7
Chiayi 2 Changhua 3 Taichung 3 Taitung Taipei 6
Tainan 3 Kaohsiung 3 New Taipei 10 Hsinchu County New Taipei 11
Pingtung 1   Changhua 2 Taipei 5 New Taipei 9
Kaohsiung 4   Taichung 8 Miaoli 1 Taipei 4
Kaohsiung 9   Taoyuan 1 Nantou 1 Taichung 5
Yunlin 2   Changhua1 Taoyuan 3 Lienchiang
Kaohsiung 1   Taipei 1 Kinmen
Kaohsiung 2   Taichung 4 Taoyuan 6
Kaohsiung 7   Hsinchu City   Taoyuan 5
Yunlin 1   Keelung   Miaoli 2
Chiayi 1   New Taipei 1  
Kaohsiung 5   New Taipei 12  
Yilan   Nantou 2    
Tainan 5   Taoyuan 4    
Kaohsiung 6   Taipei 3    
Tainan 4        
Kaohsiung 8        
Taichung 1        
Taichung 7        
Changhua 4        
New Taipei 2        
Taipei 2        
Chiayi City        
New Taipei 3        
New Taipei 4        
Taichung 6        
30 districts 5 districts 18 districts 8 districts 12 districts


If the KMT sweeps those 18 tossup districts and adds 4 indigenous seats and 15 list seats, that would give it exactly the magic 57 seats. I don’t think that is going to happen, but you can see that the optimistic KMT projections aren’t entirely based in fantasy. My gut feeling is that the pendulum will probably swing the other way, with the DPP winning most of those tossup districts due to their heavy partisan advantage. If the KMT wins four of those tossup seats and adds 4 indigenous seats and 10 list seats, it would end up with only 38 seats. If I have been unable to put aside my slavish devotion to past election results and have drawn the line too generously toward the KMT (as I suspect I may have), it could be even a bit lower. My best guess right now is that the green side will have a 51-22 advantage in the 73 district seats. In a party breakdown, that is 48 DPP, 21 KMT, 3 NPP, 1 PFP.

For the six indigenous seats, I think the general expectations are that all four KMT nominees will win, the DPP will win one (lowland) seat, and the last seat will go to deep blue independent Kao Chin Su-mei. The conventional wisdom sounds about right to me.


The party list votes are much harder to predict, and expectations are all over the place. The survey results varied wildly from poll to poll, so they didn’t provide all that much guidance. I think a lot of voters won’t make their decision until the last few days. They know which camp they are in, but they don’t necessarily know if they should vote for a big party or a small party (or which small party). A lot of this comes down to who has the best messaging in the last week to convince sympathetic voters to go their way. I think the PFP has a small core of supporters – maybe 4-5% – and the TSU has a smaller core of supporters – perhaps 2-3%. The other newer parties, including the NPP, SDP/Green, MKT, and New Party might have a core group of about 1-2%. However, each of these parties is trying to siphon away votes from the two big parties but claiming it can pass the 5% threshold. On the blue side, they are also appealing to voters to cast happy votes rather than voting for the KMT with frustrated tears in their eyes. Prior to this last week, the NPP had done the best job of creating a positive atmosphere, and it did very well in the last polls. However, this success apparently spooked the DPP, which has made concentrating votes on the DPP list one of its big three closing messages (along with preventing vote buying and going back home to vote). I think it is possible that the NPP could crash and fall below the TSU, though it is also possible that they could surge and win four seats. It’s just hard to predict. On the blue side, I think that a generous number of voters will defect from the KMT and support a smaller blue party. My gut says that the New Party, which has launched a series of flamboyant attacks in the past week, might be surging. If I had to guess, I’d say that we’ll get something like this:


Party Votes Seats
DPP 46.0% 19
KMT 25.0% 10
PFP 6.50% 3
NPP 5.50% 2
New 3.50%  
TSU 3.50%  
MKT 2.50%  
Green/SDP 2.50%  
MCFAP 1.60%  
Faith and Hope 1.00%  
NPSU 0.80%  
Free Taiwan 0.40%  
Taiwan Independence 0.20%  
Trees 0.20%  
Free Health 0.20%  
Constitutional Reform 0.20%  
China Unification 0.20%  
Peace Pigeon 0.20%  

(My refusal to translate tiny parties’ names accurately reflects my disdain for these vanity parties.)

That adds up to 55.6% in the green camp (including the two tiny Taiwan independence parties), 39.3% in the blue camp (including the unification party), and 5.5% for all the others (including the two environmental parties). Of course, this is now a ridiculous exercise, since this is a wild stab in the dark.


So, just for fun, that all adds up to 68 DPP, 35 KMT, 5 NPP, 4 PFP, and 1 (deep blue) IND. In blue/green terms, that makes a 73-40 green advantage, which would be just a little more than the blue camp’s advantage in the old legislature but nowhere near the KMT’s majority in 2008.


Going back to the wider world of expectations, I think this puts me a little out of the mainstream. I think most people are expecting a somewhat smaller DPP majority, with the DPP in the low 60s, the KMT in the upper 30s, and the smaller parties doing a lot better.


On Saturday night, a lot of the celebration or mourning will be done in relation to these expectations. However, in the longer run, we will look back in a more absolute sense. In 2008, the DPP did surprisingly well relative to pre-election expectations. However, these days no one puts it that way. Every description of the 2008 elections starts with something like, “the KMT swept into power on an overwhelming wave of support,” rather than, “the KMT took power with a big majority, though with not quite as much support as some had expected.” When we write about the 2016 outcome, we should probably do the same. The headline should be in absolute terms rather than whether one side beat the pre-election expectations.

Xi Jinping in campaign ads

January 12, 2016

I ran across an interesting ad in Neihu in Taipei 4. This is the district that in 2012 elected Alex Tsai, one of the most reviled legislators of the sunflower movement. Tsai is not running for re-election. Instead, city councilor Lee Yan-hsiu is representing the KMT. The DPP did not nominate a candidate in this district and instead is supporting Huang Shan-shan, a PFP city councilor. Not all the green camp supporters are comfortable with supporting a person who has always been a supporter of the other side, and a TSU candidate has stayed in the race in order to soak up all those votes.

Huang only has one campaign picture. It has her and the slogans, “listen carefully,” and “hear your voice.”



The attack ad from TSU candidate Hsiao Ya-tan plays on this slogan. It has a picture of PFP chair James Soong shaking hands with Xi Jinping. The characters say, “listen carefully,” and “hear the sounds of boots at the military parade.” At the bottom it says, “defend Taiwan, go all out to rescue Hsiao Ya-tan.”



This is not a post about how Xi Jinping is being used in this year’s election campaign. What is most striking to me is that this is the ONLY ad I’ve seen using his image. Notably, this is an ad of Soong and Xi, not Ma or Chu and Xi. Its purpose is to keep green voters from voting for a blue candidate, not to convince previously blue voters to change sides and support a green candidate. [Hsiao’s campaign isn’t very well funded, and I’ve only seen this billboard in two locations. As if to emphasize just how unique this ad is, while I was taking a picture of it, I glanced to my left and saw a TVBS also news reporter doing a quick report on it.]



When Eric Chu went to China last spring to meet Xi and when President Ma held his surprised meeting with Xi in November, I assumed that photos of those two shaking hands would show up in someone’s campaign ads. Thus far, I have not seen any such ads. Isn’t that interesting?

I’m not terribly surprised that the KMT isn’t using any pictures of Ma or Chu shaking Xi’s hands. No one in the KMT wants to suggest to voters that the KMT and CCP are allies. It would almost be like telling voters that a vote for the KMT equals a vote for the DPP.

I’m much more surprised that I haven’t seen any photos of Ma or Chu with Xi used in New Party or TSU ads. I would have expected one of these smaller parties to stake out an ideologically extreme position in an effort to appeal to the most radical sliver of the population.

However, it is most fascinating to me that no one in the DPP has used one of those photos. There has to have been some sort of command from the central party strategists to all candidates telling them not to go there. Otherwise, you have to imagine that someone would have put a picture on a flier or banner. It’s not as if the individual campaigns have been shy about using a variety of other attacks, and I have heard several people complaining about Ma’s behavior in the Ma-Xi meeting on the stump.

I suspect that there are two reasons the DPP is eschewing this line of attack in its official campaign materials. One is that the public is not necessarily against engagement with China. What we learned during the Ma-Xi episode is that there can be quite high levels of support for such talks, provided that various conditions of transparency and national dignity are satisfied. The DPP doesn’t want to get an image as a party that automatically shuns contact with China. Second, Tsai and the DPP are probably deliberately leaving some breathing space for future dealings with China. By not demonizing Xi Jinping in the campaign, they might be sending a message to the PRC that they are willing to have contact and even leader-to-leader meetings in the future. In other words, Tsai is being very careful not to poison the well.

A quick word on the last polls

January 5, 2016

The polling blackout starts tomorrow, so legally no one can publish or publicize poll results. It’s unclear whether that affects bloggers like me. If I were based in the USA, I’d gleefully ignore the law. However, I live and work in Taiwan, so maybe I should obey the law. I consider it more of a silly inconvenience rather than a violation of my fundamental rights, so it isn’t exactly bowing to tyranny to stop talking publicly about polls for a few days.

Anyway, several polls have been published in the last few days, and these polls seem to go in different directions. Some show that Tsai has dropped five points or so, others show Soong picking up significant support and being almost even with Chu, still others show very little fundamental change from the last two months, and the KMT poll is all alone in showing Chu trailing Tsai by less than 10%. In general, I am somewhat trusting of media polls and pretty skeptical of polls released by candidates  or parties. This year, especially as we have gotten later in the campaign, more and more polls have set off my bullshit alarm. Lots of them have seemed to be very politically useful for a specific candidate. We’re getting these sorts of polls in legislative races too, though polls for individual legislative districts and party list votes are intrinsically more volatile just because the question isn’t always as clear. (One poll showed the NPP getting nearly 10% of district legislative votes. Remember, they only have four credible district candidates. Even if those four all won overwhelming victories, the NPP wouldn’t get anywhere near 10% of the national vote. I think some respondents were thinking of the party list vote.)

What’s my interpretation? I think the debates probably gave a tiny bump to Soong and a tiny nudge downward to Chu and Tsai. However, I suspect any effect from the debates will recede as the debates fade into memory. Over the last 11 days, I suspect public opinion will revert to the longer-term equilibrium unless something new happens to upset it. So I still see this as roughly a 45-30 green-blue split in polls, which translates into roughly a 57-42 split in votes. However, the division of the blue votes between Chu and Soong is still a little unstable. (You may have noticed that Chu has spent almost as much time and energy trying to shore up his deep blue support as going after Tsai.)  In addition, turnout will probably be higher on the optimistic green side than on the relatively demoralized blue side. This is roughly how I’ve seen the election developing for at least a month now. In short, I’m not paying too much attention to the final polls, other than to make sure I don’t see anything credible that signals that something fundamental has changed. Thus far, I haven’t seen that type of thing.

Debates? Bah, humbug!

December 28, 2015

I stayed at home on Sunday to watch the presidential debate. I’m not going to write much about it because (a) someone else probably will and (b) they won’t matter very much.

Everyone always gets excited about presidential debates since they are the last major thing on the election campaign schedule that could conceivably change the outcome. The losing side always pins a lot of hope on them, probably as a way to keep up morale. However, debates rarely sway any significant number of people. The type of people who watch debates tend to be the type of people who have already made up their minds and won’t be swayed by a verbal gaffe. American primary debates might have an impact because the voters don’t know much about any of the candidates and all the candidates are from the same party. However, in these presidential debates, we all know Tsai, Chu, and Soong pretty well by now, and they have very strong partisan affiliations. We might have learned something about the VP candidates from their debate (which I’ll eventually get around to watching on youtube), but almost no one decides their presidential vote based on the VP candidate.

In case you really want to know, my quick recap is as follows. Tsai seemed angry throughout the first half of the debate. Both Tsai and Chu made petty sounding attacks and came off as a bit of jerks. Soong, as the third place candidate that the other two ignored, got to step back and sound presidential. Predictably, he also cried. They went over the same old themes, repeating the same old lines. The only things that were really interesting were Soong’s dissection of the 92 Consensus and Tsai’s interpretation of what happened at the Hong Kong meeting in 1992. Again, this whole shebang will have almost no impact on the polls, which seem to have been fairly stable for the last month and a half.