2020 ELECTIONS/Tsai Ing-wen far ahead in final opinion polls before Taiwan vote

12/31/2019 06:19 PM
From right to left: President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).
From right to left: President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is a virtual shoo-in to be re-elected as Taiwan's president on Jan. 11, 2020 if the final polls released before a 10-day poll blackout period are to be believed.

Based on the polls, Tsai could repeat or exceed her 25-point victory in 2016, in which she grabbed 56.12 percent of the vote, against 31.04 percent for Eric Chu (朱立倫) of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and 12.83 percent for James Soong (宋楚瑜), chairman of the smaller People First Party.

In the final poll issued by cable news station TVBS, Tsai had a 45 percent-29 percent lead over Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the KMT, with Soong a distant third with 7 percent. The other 19 percent of respondents were undecided.

That was a slight improvement for Han from a 22-point deficit on Dec. 4, a 19-point deficit on Dec. 14 and an 18-point deficit on Dec. 28, the day before the only presidential debate of the campaign debate.

The poll, which was conducted on the evening of Dec. 29 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points, showed the narrowest lead for Tsai among the major polls released Sunday and Monday.

An Apple Daily poll conducted Dec. 27-29 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, had Tsai with a 48.6 percent-15.4 percent lead over Han, and Soong with 6.3 percent, while 29.7 percent said they were undecided.

In its poll that also had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, my-formosa.com had Tsai at 48.2 percent support against 20.3 percent for Han and 10.3 percent for Soong.

The results represent a major turnaround from as recently as early August, when Han had a 3-point lead over Tsai in a TVBS tracking poll, and trailed Tsai by only 1.9 points in an Apple Daily poll.

Since then, Han has been hurt by allegations of previously owning expensive homes, eroding his average-Joe image, and a campaign to recall him as Kaohsiung mayor for running for president just months after being elected mayor.

At the same time, Tsai has been helped by intensifying protests in Hong Kong that have only reinforced Beijing's authoritarian, anti-democratic image, reinforcing her message that China cannot be trusted and that Taiwan cannot compromise on its sovereignty.

One potential variable that could affect the accuracy of the polls was Han's plea to supporters in late November to lie to pollsters.

Dismayed by surveys that he contended underestimated his support, Han told supporters on Nov. 29 to tell pollsters they were backing Tsai to artificially inflate her backing and lull the DPP into a false sense of security.

The Apple Daily poll estimated that of the 29.7 percent of voters in its poll who said they were undecided, just over a fifth were Han supporters who were unwilling to make their intentions known, which would narrow Tsai's lead to 48.6 percent-21.7 percent.

My-formosa pollster Tai Li-an (戴立安) felt Han's request would have only a marginal effect on poll numbers. He said he did not expect most Han supporters to follow Han's lead, and that those who did would not form a large enough group to affect a poll's validity.

Economic issues do not seem to be driving voters in this election.

Although 60.2 percent of the respondents in the my-formosa poll said Taiwan's economy was not good, while 35.4 percent said it was good, they still were generally satisfied with Tsai's performance since she took office in May 2016 by a 51.4 percent to 43.9 percent margin.

Even respondents who felt the economy was not doing well favored Tsai by a 31.8 percent-28.7 percent margin, with Soong getting 12.2 percent.

Han also fared relatively poorly on relations with China.

According to the my-formosa poll, 39.7 percent of respondents favored a more open policy toward China, compared to 48.4 percent who backed the status quo and 2.9 percent who supported a more restrictive policy.

Yet Han, who is for more conciliatory relations with China, only carved out a 35.0 percent-24.8 percent edge among those advocating a more open approach, while trailing by a 68.4 percent-9.0 percent edge among backers of the status quo and a 78.5 percent-2.6 percent edge among those wanting to limit contact with China.

Tsai was also given the nod by a 47.9 percent-21.1 percent margin when respondents were asked who they felt would be more able to protect the Republic of China.

By age, Tsai's biggest strength is with younger voters, leading Han by a 63 percent-24 percent margin among 20-29 year olds and a 56 percent-21 percent margin among 30-39 year olds in the TVBS poll.

But she only had a 41 percent-33 percent edge among 40-49 year olds and a 42 percent-36 percent edge among those aged 50-59, two age groups that were firmly behind Han earlier in the year.

The my-formosa poll showed Tsai with a more comfortable margin over Han among all age groups, and had Soong even leading or running close behind Han among voters aged 20-39.

Regionally, the only area in which Han was within 10 points of Tsai was in central Taiwan, where he trailed by a 39 percent-31 percent margin, according to the TVBS poll.

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