Daily shorts Nov 15

Paul V. Kane, author of that NYT op-ed, has been roundly booed off stage. James Fallows writes, “I kept waiting for the “but seriously now…” transition to a real proposal, or the paragraph saying, “Obviously this would be crazy, yet it underscores…” It never came. Michael Turton is incredulous and ashamed of the NYT, but linked it to previously floated ideas. Until Mr Kane responds (its like waiting to see what that guy at the back of the bus is going to do next) I guess there’s nothing left to say. Apart from this of course:

Lots of poll activity over the weekend. Remarkably they all say pretty much the same thing: at present, the presidential race is a close call. A CLSA/Gallup poll has Ma at 44.2, Tsai 43.1 and Soong at 12.8. The latest TVBS poll gives Ma a one point lead over Tsai, with Soong at 9%. The gap has been closing at about 1% per TVBS poll since the summer. China Times also sees a one point gap between Ma and Tsai, with Soong around 10. UDN is reporting a 5 point gap and also finds that the vast majority of voters have not [yet, presumably] considered strategic voting. But 2/3 of Soong supporters would change to Ma. One of the interesting things about Taiwanese polls is how they are rumoured to be used as mobilization tools, by parties in cahoots with “friendly” media and pollsters. It is crucial for a candidate to be competitive and in with a chance of winning, but not so far ahead that supporters relax their own campaigning activities or even fail to turnout. One should take these polls with a pinch of salt, but it should be clear that Taiwan 2012 is shaping up more like 2000 than 2008.

A poll two months out from the election is probably a better reflection of what we can expect than a poll seven months out, and what we’ve seen in this time is a consistent tightening of the polls. At this point, we can probably rule out a landslide for either side. But there is still room for substantial movements which are not necessarily indicative of dodgy polling. First, the number of self-reported undecideds is large: some of these know whom they will vote for, but aren’t saying. Second, there is a substantial number of non-partisans, presumably concentrated among younger cohorts, who are waiting to see what happens during the campaign. Third, despite the UDN figure cited above, there is likely a significant number of strategic voters, who likewise will wait to see what happens before deciding, possibly not before election day, whom to vote for. I wouldn’t be surprised if Soong’s poll numbers hold up during the campaign, but would be very surprised if he gets anywhere near the same proportion of votes on election day. The piquant element for both parties and their supporters is that we won’t know ahead of time how the attrition in Soong’s poll support shakes out in terms of votes.

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com