Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tsai's Perpetually Slumping Approval Goes From 29.8% to 46.4%. Obviously Still Slumping.

Something is fishy here...

I can't believe I am writing this again...

One thing about Tsai's approval ratings: no matter what their actual behavior is, in any kind of commentary, they are always slumping. This latest one from the normally sturdy Sheryn Lee states:
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is experiencing the mid-term blues. In July, support for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fell to a meagre 23.9 per cent — only marginally higher than support for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) at 22.5 per cent. A majority of Taiwanese voters were undecided on party identification. In the following month, Tsai’s personal approval rating dropped to 29.8 per cent, making her a less popular leader than US President Donald Trump in the same period. While Tsai’s approval recovered to 46.4 per cent by the end of September, the figures remain well below her May 2016 post-election popularity high of 70 per cent.
"Mid-term blues." Only in this strange alternate universe in which Tsai Ing-wen's popularity is always slumping can you write that a president whose popularity has risen from 29.8% to 46.4% -- according to your own figures! -- is suffering from "mid-term blues".

So many love to compare Tsai's 70% initial approval with her current approval, whatever that may be, to show how the mighty have fallen. It makes a great narrative, but it is utterly divorced from the Taiwan context.

Few presidents can sustain such high approval ratings, especially in Taiwan. The missing context: Tsai's approval hit the 30s in October of 2016 and has been around there ever since. No blues here, just normality and stability. Tsai's approval probably isn't going to move much, except for spikes like the one she got this fall from bringing in William Lai as premier (Taiwan Style Foundation has her at 49.6%). I expect that approval for Lai and Tsai will fall over time, especially as the 2018 election nears, and return to the 25-35% range as is normal.

Does no one search the net anymore? I wrote about the approval issue in Dec of 2016, nearly a year ago:
Humans like to explain things in terms of accessible narratives, not opaque structures. Because so many issues are swirling through the public arena at any given time, it is easy to construct a narrative that can explain dissatisfaction with Tsai. After all, the Administration has faced labor protests, the gay marriage controversy, withering criticism of its appointments to the civil law reform commission, the snafu with the appointment of a representative to Singapore, the KMT asset committee… a long list could be compiled. Similar lists could be made for the early months of the Ma Administration, from the Chen Shui-bian trial to falling export orders to another of the interminable food scandals (melamine milk, in that case) that have vexed every administration. Though many writers date the decline in Ma's popularity from his dreadful performance in Typhoon Morokot, in fact by September of 2008 Global Views Monthly had pegged his satisfaction at only 24.9%.
That's right -- it Ma just four months to hit 24.9%. Then he got re-elected with lower approval ratings than Tsai has now. The polls are meaningless noise. Indeed, you could use the numbers Lee cites to show that Tsai is running ahead of Ma at the same point in their respective first terms. But mentioning Trump is ever so much more interesting than discussing the local context...

....The comparison to Trump is absurd trolling that should have no place in a serious discussion of Tsai's performance, but it makes for great narrative, as we saw in the LA Times hit piece on Tsai.

Lee also shows how the endlessly repeated conventional understanding of Taiwanese attitudes towards the status quo are wrong:
As a consequence, both parties could face even tougher electoral battles in the future, and these will likely occur on two fronts. First, the parties must manage cross-Strait issues as both a foreign and a domestic policy issue. The majority of voters identify solely as ‘Taiwanese’ (as opposed to ‘Chinese’ or ‘both Taiwanese and Chinese’) but also support the cross-Strait status quo. This makes it extremely difficult for either party to balance demands from Beijing with the demands of a large bloc of voters who have no party affiliation but identify as Taiwanese and believe in the cross-Strait status quo.
This is just not getting it:
The majority of voters identify solely as ‘Taiwanese’ (as opposed to ‘Chinese’ or ‘both Taiwanese and Chinese’) but also support the cross-Strait status quo.
That should be AND not BUT. Because they are Taiwanese, they support the status quo. It is a weak form of independence, and the best that can be gotten at present. This means that it is the KMT that faces the more serious friction on the cross-strait policy front. Getting closer to China means getting farther from independence, which displeases voters, and is disruptive to Taiwan economically and socially, which also displeases voters.

Meanwhile Tsai's positions on distance from China have strong public support, as polls show that her refusal to say Taiwan is part of China ("acknowledge the 1992 Consensus") and her preservation of the status quo is popular (polls from 2016 and 2017). Tsai's Southbound Policy has consistent high public support, at least according to MOFA.

Preserving the status quo does not create problems for the DPP since it is the popular pro-independence position, but is a problem for the KMT, which seeks to destroy the status quo and annex Taiwan to China. In fact, in a survey that came out today, Tsai's cross-strait policy has 45% support, while Chairman Wu's of the KMT has merely 18% support.

The idea that "status quo" is different from "wants independence" is a construct of the old MAC and NCCU polls (lets not forget that NCCU is the old political warfare school and remains very blue institutionally) that cut the electorate up into tiny pieces, ostensibly to get a more fine-grained view of its views, but in reality to obscure the fact that the majority of the population supports any independence it can get. Hence you have scholars claiming that the "center" supports the status quo and not independence or annexation. Plain wrong: the center is pro-independence, which is why it supports the status quo.

The rest of the piece is solid and given the beginning, has a surprisingly positive tone toward Tsai. It could easily have started out that way...
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is experiencing long-term stable poll numbers, reflecting her steady forward progress in a variety of areas. In September, support for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rallied above 30 percent, higher than support for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), after the cabinet reshuffle. A majority of Taiwanese voters were undecided on party identification, a normal situation between elections. That month, Tsai’s personal approval rating rose above 45%, showing that public disapproval of Tsai is more the result of transient impatience rather than public disillusionment. At this point in their respective terms, Tsai's approval is running ahead of previous President Ma Ying-jeou, giving her good prospects for re-election.
But why write sanely, when you can compare her to Trump?
Daily Links:

EVENTS: AmCham Taichung Happy Hour, Saturday, Nov. 11, 6-8 p.m, Taihu Brewing's Chuoyinshi bar  (click on read more)

Hi Everyone,



Time: Saturday, Nov. 11, 6-8 p.m.
Place: Taihu Brewing's Chuoyinshi bar
(22, ZhongXing 1st Lane, 1F, West Dist; tel. 04-2305-5568)
臺虎精釀 啜飲室 西區中興一巷22號1F(中興街往南,過了向上北路後的第一條巷子右轉,即可尋找”獅子在葫蘆內”的標誌)

Directions: Heading south on ZhongXing St. about a block below Civic Square, turn right on the first lane after XiangShang N. Rd and look for Taihu's "lion-in-a-gourd" logo on the right.

臺虎是台灣數一數二的精釀啤酒商,位於綠光計畫-范特喜文創聚落巷弄內(前身為舊市府使用宿舍),是台北以外的第一家分店。室內以粗糙的紅磚牆與牆柱為亮點,地面鋪滿八千塊木板,昏暗的燈光充滿了舒適的氛圍。顧客可以選擇坐在引人注目的L型吧檯區,或是站在較寬廣的木桌區,另有小型戶外啤酒花園區。吧檯後方展示著20支精釀啤酒龍頭 (200-250元/330 毫升),其包含臺虎製造的15款創意啤酒與5款美國進口的內華達雪山、Stone與Ballast Point啤酒。臺虎將台中這間酒吧取名為啜飲室,意味著啤酒展覽室;每位員工皆持有啤酒侍酒師一級認證資格,他們也非常樂意提供啤酒相關知識與介紹,店內唯一餐點是使用8種肉類組成的滿甲熟肉拼盤(350元)

All are welcome to this month's informal social/networking gathering. Participants get to enjoy buy-1-get-1-free deals on all 18 draft craft beers served by this attractive, cozy "standing bar", located in a renovated old brick building.

Reservations not required.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

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