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Oct 21, 2009

On those latest Unification/Independence poll numbers

Tim Maddog has blogged on an apparent explosion in support for "immediate independence" over at Taiwan Matters!, but let me throw in some cautionary words.

First, keep in mind that there is a lot of ambiguity on what constitutes the status quo (is Taiwana province of an all-China ROC? Is Taiwan de facto independent? Is Taiwan's status undetermined?). Remembering this will help us decode the shift in support.

Tim does a good job of comparing the latest poll results with an earlier Mainland Affairs Council poll on the subject. In the table below, I've also thrown in a Global Affairs 5/20 poll on the same subject.

Independence ASAPStatus quo now, Independence laterStatus quo now, decide laterStatus quo foreverStatus quo now, unification laterUnification ASAP
Global Affairs 10/2019%10.3%40.7%11%4.3%4.0%
Global Affairs 05/2015%10.4%44.9%11.5%5.1% 3.2%
MAC 4/206.7%15.1%35%27%7.6%1.2%

Taking in all the data together, it appears support for unification now or later is rather static at around the 8.0-8.5% mark. The independence ASAP camp does seem to have gained some ground lately, picking up support from the "wait and see" group. Still, if the latest Global Affairs poll is accurate, a solid two thirds majority are content with the ambiguous "status quo."

Perhaps the shift is a result of people fearing Ma is moving too fast. Perhaps it's because people no longer find the status quo as ambiguously favorable toward Taiwan as they did before. Or perhaps the increase is really just statistical noise. In any case, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on these numbers as time goes on.


Άλισον said...

I have compared these Global polls with the ones commissioned by the Mainland Affairs Council's chart (thru CC University, or other private companies). MAC's results as I calculated the average for each year from 2007 (2 polls), to 2008 (4 polls), and to 2009 (2 polls so far), there is no increase on immediate unification, I only observe a slight drop, it never exceeds the 3%, from 2007 average at 2.7%, 2008 average at 1.75%, and 2009 average at 1.45%. So, the 4% here by the Global magazine is questionably high.

There is also a slight drop on status quo now & unification later, with average from 2007 to 2009 respectively at:
10.7%, 8.05%, 8.15%.

Maintaining the status quo forever actually is the biggest change, average from 2007 to 2009 respectively at:
19.25%, 23.35%, 27.5%.

The status quo forever could mean refusing to be part of China, therefotre wanting to be the way it is now forever if not being able to become independent. Otherwise, if people want to be part of China later would have chosen the maintaining the status quo and unification later category.

The maintaining the status quo and decide later also has a slight loss, the average from
2007 to 2009 respectively:
39.9%, 38.75%, 35.2%.

The drop here didn't go to those people who support unification (either immediately or later because just above we found out that both slightly dropped), so it has contributed to the gain in the status quo forever category.

I don't know how large is the sample taken by the Global magazine, the MAC's samples are all larger than 1000 people each time.

I have also studied the opinion poll of the Taiwan Thinktank, but that one was from a slightly older statistics and I will take up too much space here to talk about it.

Maybe on my own blog, I will try to do my interpretations & summary.

BTW, I did major in Statistics aside from the other ones.

Tim Maddog said...

A-gu, I've updated my post with a more accurate title and a link to (plus quote/translation from) the same Global Views survey from which you got the "15%."

I like the chart, since it clearly shows where those extra four percentage points came from.

However, I would dispute your comment about so many people (much less "a solid two thirds majority") being "content" with the status quo, after all, only 11% want to maintain the status quo "forever."

People are naturally afraid of China's military threats and have been conditioned to think that standing up for their rights will be perceived as a "provocation." If China's irrational threats were to somehow disappear from the equation, vocal support for immediate independence would skyrocket.

As you show above, fewer than 9% express any sort of support for unification with China. Even if a large chunk of the rest have "no opinion" (let's say 20%, which, if my mental calculations are correct, seems to be about how many non-responses the Global Views polls have), that would leave at least 71% in favor of independence.

To answer Άλισον's question about the sample sizes of the Global Views surveys, the one from May polled 1,003 people while the October survey polled 1,006 people -- according to the numbers listed within each.

Lastly, I should remind everybody that Global Views is a pro-blue pollster, so if there's any bias in their results, it would be in the unificationists' favor.

Tim Maddog

Άλισον said...

Thanks Tim for the sample size of the Global magazine, the next question will be how uniformly distributed are the samples, are they taken from all over Taiwan?

From the MAC's results I can conclude that:

The significant increase (19.25% 2007 avg. to 27.5% 2009 avg.) in the category of "maintaining the status quo forever" can be interpreted as people who prefer to stay as citizens of an unrecognized (or should we say few recognized) nation if not being able to become independent (due to pressure from both China and the US), and would never want to become citizens of the People's Republic of China.

Or in Chinese:

And like Tim said, removing the threats from China and pressure from the US, Taiwanese definitely want to have their own independent nation, no doubt about this.

Carlos said...

Am I seeing a trend towards increased polarization?

Tim Maddog said...

Carlos asked:
- - -
Am I seeing a trend towards increased polarization?
- - -

No. What you're seeing is the support for unification (the "extreme" position) staying the same while supporters of that "ambiguous" status quo become more open in their support for formal independence.

Tim Maddog