The Rigged Jiangsu Public Opinion Poll

(China National Radio)  Public Opinion Polls In Jiangsu Province Were Rigged With Standard Answers.  February 11, 2009.

A few days ago, there was a random telephone survey of residents in the Qidong, Haimen, Tongzhou and other districts of Nantong city in Jiangsu province.  The purpose was to determine the prosperity level of the people and to listen to their feedback.  Local cadres asked the interviewees to use previously distributed standard answers.  Many elementary and secondary schools even had a day off so that the students can memorize the answers and "assist" their parents to deal with the telephone poll.  Our in-depth investigation showed that this brazenly rigged public opinion poll was the work of certain individual cadres who wanted to show that the people have reached the prosperity target goals.

At the Seventeenth Communist Party Congress, the goal was bring about a fully prosperous society.  Jiangsu province proposed a high-level  of prosperity in which the masses will benefit and accept.  Public opinion polling was part of this process, whereby a county/city needs more than 60% agreement from the public before it can be declared as reaching the full prosperity standard.  In late 2008, Qidong city under Nantong city attained a 94.8% approval rate in the random telephone poll conducted by the Jiangsu province Bureau of Statistics.  However, many local villagers told our reporter differently:

Village 1: The wholis thing was faked!  It was all faked in our village!  It was certainly faked!

Village 2: This is using money to buy lies.

At many village homes, the reporter could see the survey printed and distributed by the Full Prosperous Society workgroup in Qidong city.  This nicely printed survey questionnaire has ten questions for which standard answers were provided.  No matter what their actual annual income is, the rural villagers need to say 8,500 yuan while city dwellers are to answer 16,500 yuan.  No matter whether they have social insurance or not, they must say they do; no matter whether they are satisfied with their residences, roads or environment, they must answer yes.

Reporter: Who gave you this leaflet?

Villager: The village brigade leader.

Reporter: When was it distributed?

Villager: It was distributed before the survey took place.  This leaflet was distributed to great fanfare.  Several meetings were held to tell us that the provincial government will be holding a telephone sample survey and we must answer according to what is in the leaflet and we will be paid 50 yuan.  At the last moment, the incentive was raised to 200 yuan plus the 144 yuan monthly telephone fee.

Reporter: So the total incentive amounted to more than 300 yuan.

Villager:  On day 15 of the month, the town government held a meeting and assign the cadres to cover all the villagers.

Reporter: Do you think that your family net income is significantly different from the desired answer of 8,500 yuan?

Villager: That's impossible.  We have not attained prosperity yet.  Where do we get 8,500 yuan in net income?  This is a lie.

Reporter: Are you satisfied with your environment?

Villager: Definitely not satisfied.

Reporter: But you are asked to say that you are satisfied.

Villager: Yes, we were asked to say that we are satisfied!  This is fake!  This is so fake!

According to the villagers, three or four meetings were held in the town/village in order to assure that the prosperity standards are attained.  The cadres visited all the households with telephones in order to mobilize the people and ensure that they won't say the wrong things during the interviews.  Villagers who say the right thing according to the standard answers received more than 100 yuan or even as much as 1,000 yuan.  The local elementary and secondary schools had a day off.  The teachers made the students recite the answers and post the leaflet next to the telephone in order to assist their parents.

Reporter: Little friend, did you get a day off?

Schoolchild: I got a day off.

Reporter: Why did you get a day off?

Schoolchild: In order to answer the above questions.

Reporter: What did you do?

Schoolchild: They did not call our home.

Reporter: If they did call, what did the teacher tell you to do?

Schoolchild: Say according to what was printed there.

During the interviews, the villagers said that while their lives have improved over the past few years, many families have not yet reached the prosperity standards.  The villagers are angry over the brazen fakery.  Yet, the local leaders are very happy with the results of the prosperity survey.

Qidong city party secretary Sun Jianhua: We are in the process of constructing a full prosperous society.  We pay special attention to the satisfaction level of the people towards the work of the government and the Party.  Last year, a sample survey showed that the satisfaction level of the people of Qidong about the level of prosperity was 94.8%.  This is the highest level of satisfaction among all of the prosperous counties/cities in Jiangsu province.  We say three things: there is no exaggeration; the people are actually benefitting; and the people are in agreement.  We have attained all twenty-five prosperity indicators.  The home telephone numbers and mobile telephone numbers of all homes were given to the Bureau of Statistics which took a random sample to poll.  This survey showed that the people are in agreement.

Reporter: What happens if the people are not in agreement?

Secretary Sun: That it won't pass.

Reporter: Pass what?

Secretary Sun: We won't pass as having attained full prosperity.  That is to say, we have not reached the level of prosperity.

Reporter: This means that this is a concrete indicator that must be attained?

Secretary Sun: If the people don't agree, then what is the use even if your other indicators are high?  Right?  The people need to actually experience and feel the full prosperity.

The reporter went through Haimen, Tongzhou and a dozen towns and villages in Nantong city, and found that the open fakery followed the same modus operandi: standard answers were distributed, students were given the day off, cash rewards were given and the cadres visited every home.  The reporter saw a document about the list of villagers (including their names and telephone numbers) that a village brigade leader was responsible for.  The brigade leader was charged by his supervisor to ensure that there are no problems during the telephone interviews.

Village brigade leader: There was a town meeting where we were asked to visit every family in order to promote this.  They have to say nice things in accordance with the standard answers.  A town vice-mayor pounded on the desk and said: "You better all say nice things.  I will know who didn't!"

Villager: They were using a threatening style.  You must say nice things.  If you don't say nice things, I know who you are.

The public fakery by individual cadres in Qidong, Haimen and Tongzhou is having a bad impact among the masses.  At the Tongzhou city government website, the reporter saw a work bulletin that said: The city Party and government is asking all city cadres to go down to the villagers to promote the prosperity movement.  The cadres from the Population Planning Department went down to the villages and communicated with every family that has a telephone.  They made purposeful attempts to convince those farmers who hold different views.  The cadres also sought to comfort those families which are in hardship.  A physically handicapped couple took the incentive and said: "If the pollsters call my home, I will definitely say that I am doing well just so everybody can be satisfied!"

The letter from Tongzhou city Liuqiao town to the town folks contain this sentence: "The prosperity survey is an evaluation of the economic construction, and it is also a survey of the overall quality of each Liuqiao resident."

In Qidong, Haimen and Tongzhou, many Communist Party members were pained by the open fakery.  A veteran Party member with more than 30 years of membership told us: "Bullshit!  Things are not as good as this!  But if you tell the truth, they will criticize you; if you lie, they will reward you with money."

It is a very good thing to go amongst the people, listen to their voices and value their level of satisfaction.  But if public opinion is misrepresented in order to get political accomplishments, then it can only damage the image of the government and Party among the people.  When the cadres ask the masses to prevaricate and the teachers teach the students to lie, a serious public opinion poll has turned into a farce that we should be concerned about.