Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Tuesday was the final day on which polling data could be released ahead of local elections in Taiwan on Nov. 24, and the results suggest that several key races are still up in the air.
In Taiwan, the law prohibits poll results to be disclosed publicly in the final 10 days before election day, and with this year's ban kicking in on Tuesday at midnight, major media were intent on getting out their final numbers ahead of the deadline.
Of the closely watched races in Taiwan's six major cities -- Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung -- Taichung and Kaohsiung seem to be the tightest, with different polls anointing different winners.
The hottest race seems to be in Kaohsiung, where Chen Chi-mai (???) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faces upstart Han Kuo-yu (???) of the Kuomintang (KMT).
In the city held by the DPP for 20 years, a poll by the green (DPP)-leaning SET News Channel conducted on Nov. 11 and 12 had Chen up 43.6 percent to 40.6, with 13.9 percent voicing no opinion, while Apple Daily's conducted Nov. 10-11, had Han up 35.4 percent to 32.6 percent, with 30 percent not voicing an opinion.
Other recent polls have had Han ahead, including a TVBS poll conducted Nov. 4-6 that gave him a 48 percent to 38 percent advantage.
The polls for Taichung, where the incumbent, Mayor Lin Chia-lung (???) of the DPP, is trying to fend off the challenge of KMT Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (???), show an even greater disparity.
In a poll released over the weekend, SET News had Lin ahead 45.1 percent to 34.0 percent, in sharp contrast to survey by the blue-leaning United Daily News on Nov. 6 showing Lu with a 43 percent to 30 percent lead, a gain of 9 points for Lu from a similar survey in September.
In a poll conducted Nov. 6-9, TVBS had Lu ahead 41 percent to 39 percent.
These many conflicting results, often with huge numbers of respondents saying they are undecided or unwilling to provide their opinion, are typical for Taiwan, said Wu Shih-chang (???), general manager of Trend Survey and Research.
The disparities, he said, may result from how precise sampling is and if the questions for respondents are written in ways that can influence results.
"The biggest problem we have is that most of the polls put out are for publicity purposes. Each party and each campaign is putting out numbers that are favorable to them," Wu said.
As for the high percentage of people with no opinion, "some people are still suspicious and prefer not to reveal their political leanings over the phone, especially in the south or in rural areas," Wu said.
Who those silent voters are seems to change in different election years, according to Wu, and he suspects that pro-DPP voters are the ones more likely to not be offering their opinion in this election cycle because of the low popularity of President Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP administration.
"In New Taipei, for example, some polls have Su Tseng-chang (???) losing by 20 points. I think that even if Su loses it won't be by that much because those who have not wanted to give their opinion will vote for Su," Wu said.
Polls in New Taipei, in fact, have consistently put KMT candidate Hou Yu-yi (???) on top by varying margins over the DPP's Su, making it the KMT's one relatively "safe" seat among the six big mayoral races.
TVBS saw Hou ahead 48 percent to 34 percent, though narrowed that to a 55-45 margin after inferring how those who did not voice their opinion might vote, reflecting Wu's premise that the "silent" respondents may lean to the DPP.
But an SET News poll called the race a dead heat, with both candidates getting 44 percent, and Apple Daily also saw the race tightening, with Hou holding a 36.4 percent to 30.7 percent edge and 33 percent of voters not disclosing a preference, perhaps indicating a closer than expected race.
Another race thought to have a clear frontrunner is Taipei, with incumbent Ko Wen-je (???) expected in polls to top the KMT's Ting Shou-chung (???) and the DPP's Yao Wen-chih (???).
A my-Formosa.com poll conducted Nov. 5-7 had Ko leading with 38.6 percent support to 27.1 percent for Ting and 8.3 for Yao. More recently, however, Apple Daily had Ko up by only 2.7 percentage points over Ting (34.1 percent to 31.4 percent) and TVBS had Ko up by 3 percentage points (39 percent to 36 percent).
According to Apple Daily, the smaller gap in support for Ko and Ting resulted from a move by writer Hsiao Yeh (??), a top campaign aide to the Taipei mayor, to voice his support for Chen in the Kaohsiung race, prompting KMT voters leaning toward Ko to shift their support to Ting.
The other two races in Taoyuan and Tainan are considered safe seats for the DPP, though even the polls covering those races have tightened slightly.
What could also have an impact on election day is party preference, which is tracked closely by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.
Results of its latest survey released Tuesday found that only 23.5 percent of voters identify themselves as DPP backers, while 35.4 percent identify with the KMT and 36 percent see themselves as independent voters.
The support for the KMT represents a dramatic change, having lingered in the low 20-point range for 2017 and most of 2018, according to the foundation, which did not explain the sharp jump.
That shift was seen when the foundation asked respondents which party's candidate they would vote for in the races for the six big city mayors and 16 other county and city chief races around Taiwan.
Some 33.9 percent said the KMT, 24.2 percent said the DPP, 14.9 percent said independent candidates, 17.9 percent said they were undecided, and 9.1 percent said they did not know or refused to answer, according to the foundation.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel