Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shameless opinion poll shenanigans

It’s no secret that politicians often use opinion polls to support, rather than determine, policy decisions. Knowing this, the public is well advised to always approach such polls released by government agencies with skepticism, as numbers can be massaged to fit predetermined policy, just as intelligence can be used to buttress just about any plan, however frivolous.

One need only turn to an opinion poll on cross-strait relations released on Thursday by the Mainland Affairs Council for a perfect example of a politicized survey masking self-serving purposes.

The third question in the poll — “Stance on status quo, reunification, independence” — seems innocuous enough, until one looks at the answer categories: “Maintaining the status quo in the broadest sense” (86.2 percent), “Maintain the status quo forever” (30.5 percent) and “Maintain the status quo, and then reunify [sic] with the mainland or seek independence” (34.6 percent).

While on the surface there’s nothing wrong here, a hypothetical scenario can enlighten the situation.

Imagine a group of 20 judges is asked to decide whether a man caught stealing a goat should be (a) stoned to death for his crime; (b) allowed to walk free; (c) that further deliberation on the matter is necessary, though the end decision must be death or freedom; or (d) that deliberation should go on indefinitely. Unbeknownst to most but his closest aides, the village chief has already made up his mind and wants execution, no matter what. However, as he rules over a democracy, he orders an opinion poll to give the decision some veneer of legitimacy.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

1 comment:

Jade said...

While I'm not surprised to see the KMT continues to manipulate the public with a seemingly reasonable poll, I'm glad that at least now we have more people like you and press like Taiepei Times to analyize what's behind the surface and give the public a chance to think more deeply. The Taiwanese people are awakening perhaps slowly but surely. As you mentioned in the article, the population that supports Taiwan Independence is growing steadily year by year and I feel more and more optimistic that my dream of seeing an independent and free Republic of Taiwan will come true.