Taiwan pollster says his surveys ruffled feathers
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A Taiwanese pollster said Monday that his election surveys caused “turbulence” and that’s why his parent company pulled the plug on his election poll division after one of them favored the opposition presidential candidate.
The outgoing polling director of Global Views Magazine, Tai Li-an, stopped short of alleging that the shutdown was politically motivated, but an opposition newspaper hinted that President Ma Ying-jeou’s campaign manager may have put pressure on the company.
The imbroglio over last week’s closure of the company’s 5 1/2-year-old polling center reflects the challenges local pollsters face in building credibility and publishing accurate polls in Taiwan. The island’s public rarely trust polls published by media outlets because of the perception that they skew the results to boost the candidates they support.
Of the island’s three big newspapers, two almost invariably support Ma’s Nationalist Party, while the third just as invariably backs the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Global Views had been regarded as leaning slightly toward the Nationalists, but unlike the newspapers, the work of its polling center was widely perceived as objective.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Tai said he could not be sure that Ma’s campaign forced the closure of the organization’s polling center, but he still expressed strong consternation over the move.
“The company management said political surveys have caused too much turbulence so it has decided to abandon the project,” Tai said. “We are not being terminated because we have poor execution. We are very confident in our own poll model.”
Tai said his most recent poll found main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen leading Ma by 4-6 percent in the Jan. 14 presidential race. That gap is still within the margin of error.
Tai said his survey was based on the same model he used for the 2008 presidential election, in which he accurately predicted Ma would score a landslide victory. In that election, Ma won 58 percent of all votes — one point less than Tai’s forecast.
The most recent Global Views forecast is significantly different from the results of recent polls published by the two pro-Nationalist newspapers, which give Ma leads of 9 to 11 points.
A Global Views spokeswoman denied that political pressure was behind the move to close its political polling unit, saying it reflected purely commercial considerations.
“Our company has been restructuring its organization since the beginning of this year, and the senior management wants the survey center to focus more on social issues, economy and humanity — issues that our magazine is devoted to,” Wang Shu-chen said.
On Monday the Liberty Times newspaper said Ma’s campaign manager frequently questioned the polling methods of one unnamed media company and that after the organization’s polling results were published, he usually cast aspersions on the company’s director.
Last week the paper suggested “improper political pressure” was behind the Global Views move.
The Liberty Times did not cite a source for its reports.