Thursday, July 13, 2017

The existential meaninglessness of Tsai's approval ratings

The chart above shows Ma Ying-jeou's trust and approval ratings from the TISR Taiwan Mood Barometer Survey from Dec of 2015, just before the election. The chart shows his ratings for the whole of his Administration. The dark blue line at the bottom that ends in 18.3% is his satisfaction rating, the red line, trust, the yellow, distrust, and the blue, dissatisfaction.

That's right. Ma's approval hardly touched 40% the whole of his eight years, and he spent most of his second term below 20%. He got re-elected with below-30% satisfaction.

Let us recall that at the moment Tsai's party is relentlessly squeezing KMT assets, reducing everyone's pensions, redirecting public infrastructure spending, and supporting gay marriage. Change is slow and everyone is impatient. Being above 30% is a strong performance, testimony to her ability to stay calm and never say anything stupid.

I'm posting this because I have had conversations with people who really ought to know better: the proper comparison is with Taiwan presidents who traditionally have low satisfaction ratings, not the President of some other country. Taiwanese are pessimists and complainers, like most humans, and are always dissatisfied with the pace of change, unless they are dissatisfied with the direction of change.

Let me emphasize this: Tsai's satisfaction ratings aren't low. They are, compared to Ma's, somewhat higher overall. I fully expect them to continue to sink into the twenties and bounce around there, as Ma's did, and Tsai to win re-election, as Ma did. The reasons for these ratings are structural and have nothing to do with who is the President, as I noted in my post on the LA Times hit piece on Tsai Ing-wen.

A complicating factor is that there is no group like TISR with stable long-term polling on the issue, and frankly I do not trust the polls from these new organizations, because I do not know what their politics are. TISR was a staid Establishment poll, generally solid. Unfortunately TISR stopped polling. Their last poll of Tsai has her at 34.6% approval at the end of October last year. Obviously the sheen from the presidential election evaporated quickly, and she fell into the usual territory for Taiwan presidents.

Good luck finding a reliable poll on Chen Shui-bian. Here and there one can dip into the past: for example, this Oct 2005 UDN poll has Chen at 25%, in his second term, which feels reasonable.

Nothing to see here, move along folks.
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Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Is she reducing *everyone's* pensions or just the pensions of a historically privileged subset?

Anonymous said...

Liu Xiaobo is now dead. China is the first regime in history that imprison a Nobel peace prize winner to death. Some of the worst regimes in history like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia all let theirs go. Tsai is doing her best to keep Taiwan from China's clutch and she deserves more credit than what she is getting. People in Taiwan needs to wake up.

Carlos said...

It's a strong contrast to the US where each president is likely to have a base of 40% that will always support them, barring exceptional circumstances.

Is it just higher expectations? A different definition of "satisfaction"?

Linn said...

What a worth thinking post!

an angry taiwanese said...

I am not as optimistical about her re-election. KMT's newly erected Chairman, White Dolphin, is a formidable challenger. Read his resume, read his smile, read his astrology and you shall know why.

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