Washington, May 11 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou received a higher approval rating than his counterparts from Japan and South Korea in a Gallup survey conducted in 21 Asian countries and regions throughout last year.
About 54 percent of the Taiwanese surveyed by Gallup approved Ma's job performance, compared with 37 percent who disapproved and 9 percent who did not know or would not answer, according to results of the poll released Friday.
Ma's approval rating ranked 12th, ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who finished 15th with an approval rating of 44 percent, and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who was 17th with an approval rating of 40 percent.
Outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang was 19th, with an approval rating of 36 percent.
Ma would not likely fare as well if the same poll were conducted today, with some local surveys putting his approval rating below 20 percent after recent controversies over fuel and electricity price hikes, a move to ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef, and an initiative to tax capital gains on stock investments.
In the Gallup poll, Laotians, Cambodians and Sri Lankans were the most likely to express support for their leaders, with more than 90 percent in each country approving the performance of top political figures.
The 20 percent approval rating that Pakistanis gave President Asif Ali Zardari was the lowest in the region.
The leaders with the five best approval ratings were Laotian President Choummali Saignason (97 percent), Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (93 percent), Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (91 percent), Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (84 percent), and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (80 percent).
Rounding out the top 10 were Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (78 percent), Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (77 percent), Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (75 percent), New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (72 percent), and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung (63 percent).
The survey found that the leaders of Malaysia, Cambodia and Taiwan saw marginal improvement in their already positive approval rating last year, but more leaders in the region lost support than gained it, the polling company said in a report on the survey's results.
"Economic stability and peace dividends may help explain some of the relatively high approval that leaders of Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka get from their constituents," Gallup said in the report.
In contrast, political discord, internal strife, and geopolitical complexities likely affected the approval ratings for leaders in Hong Kong, Nepal and Pakistan, Gallup said.
The findings suggest "that those leaders without a majority of their constituents' support need to address the economic, social and political concerns of their populations," Gallup's report said.
The results of the survey were based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between April 5 and Dec. 4, 2011 in the 21 countries and regions.
The polls had margin of errors ranging from plus or minus 2 percentage points to plus or minus 4 percentage points.
(By Jay Chou and Lilian Wu)