The Taiwanese Want Independence
First, here is a well-known piece of tracking data conducted since December 1994 by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University every six months (see ESC, NCC data archives). Please note that the survey question is not just "Do you want independence? Yes or no." Instead, there are six options being offered. When the same question is being asked over time, the trending pattern is comparable. Survey researchers know that if the question should be changed, the data are no longer comparable and even seemingly minute changes can have significant impact.
There is another question being asked on Taiwanese/Chinese identity. Again, the question is not simply: "Are you Taiwanese? Yes or no." There are three possible answers instead.
Next, there is a new and different study conducted by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University.
(Central News Agency via Yahoo! News) November 29, 2006.
According to the public opinion poll results released by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, if the Chinese government were to permit the people of Taiwan to freely choose their future, 62% of the respondents said that "Taiwan should become independent." Next, the assumption that the Chinese government would permit independence was removed. Furthermore, the 16.9% who answered "no" the first time around were not asked again. There were still 54% who thought that Taiwan should become independent.
... The Election Study Center said that this is the second survey in a three-year research project. In November 2006, 1,000 adults were interviewed in each of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Okinawa.
... Within this survey, 60% of the respondents regard themselves as Taiwanese, which is 4% higher than last year. Only 4.8% regard themselves as Chinese, which is 2.2% lower than last year.
(Apple Daily) Column written by Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), a researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Preparatory Office, Academia Sinica.
According to the reports, President Chen Shui-bian spoke at the Global Conference of Taiwanese about the poll results from the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, in which 60% of the respondents regard themselves as Taiwanese. He also said that the poll results showed that no matter whether China agrees or not, more than half of the respondents think that Taiwan should become independent. Chen Shui-bian was clearly ecstatic about this kind of poll results. For those who advocate Taiwan independence, this is very encouraging news. But then these poll data seemed to be very unusual, because they deviate greatly from the long-term tracking studies conducted by the same Election Study Center, National Chengchi University.
In reading the press release from the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, the latest public opinion poll result was that 60.1% of the respondents regarded themselves as Taiwanese, and 62% of the respondents would choose independence for Taiwan if the Chinese government permits free choice. Yet from the website of the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, the June 2006 tracking study showed that 44.4% regarded themselves as Taiwanese and 18.7% wanted independence immediately or leaned towards independence.
It is hard to understand how the percentage of people who regard themselves as Taiwanese should jump from 44% to 60% by 16% over the course of only four to five months. There does not seem to be any important factors that would cause such an unprecedented change over the past four to five months.
From the long-term tracking report conducted by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, the percentage who identified themselves as Taiwanese has always hovered around 40% since 2000, with a low of 37.3% in 2000 and a high of 46.5% in 2005. The number was between 40% and 44% for all the other surveys. It is therefore hard to see why it should suddenly increase to 60%.
As for the percentage of people who want independence being greater than 50% (including 62% if the Chinese government were to allow it), this also deserves attention. But the question in the new survey is rather unique and different from past surveys. In this question, the additional condition was added: "If the Chinese government were to permit the people of Taiwan to choose their future." This will obviously make more people willing to support Taiwan independence. After this question, the next one is about whether one still supports Taiwan independence even if the Chinese government does not agree. Since most people want to maintain a consistent attitude, many of them also wanted independence. So that was how more than 50% of the people supported Taiwan independence. In most previous studies, including those by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, the condition "if the Chinese government permits" was not present. That would make the percentage of people who want independence a lot less. In the last five years, the figure had been hovering around 20%.
It is an interesting design for the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University to add "if the Chinese government permits" to the question of Taiwan independence. The people of Taiwanese have the right to determine the future of their own country. But under the powerful threat from China, many Taiwanese dare not support independence and they support maintaining the status quo as an indirect way of expressing their support for independence. This survey removed the China factor first, and therefore the survey result could not have been predicted beforehand. Yet, even though most of the people are basically supportive of Taiwan independence, this exercise ultimately assumes that the Chinese government will allow us to freely express our opinion. In practice, this is impossible.
The Taiwan government needs to work hard to let the Chinese government agree to let the people of Taiwan choose their own future. It is also the most important task of the President. Unfortunately, Chen Shui-bian seemed only to have used the public opinion poll results to comfort himself and rouse up the passions of the independence supporters. There has been no sober contemplation about the issue. Instead, it was just fodder for electioneering to narcotize himself and his supporters. He even claimed that when his term of office ends, 80% of the people will regard themselves as Taiwanese. It is an impossible mission to go from the usual 44% to 80%; it is hard enough to go from the 60% to 80%.
Apart from the ecstasy over this special public opinion poll result, has Chen Shui-bian reflected upon what he has actually done on behalf of Taiwan independence? It seems that Chen Shui-bian just likes to use Taiwan independence for masturbation (自慰), and then he treats masturbation as self-defense (自衛).