HKU POP SITE releases the latest survey result on political reformBack


Press Release on July 30, 2007

| Background | Latest Figures | Commentary
| Detailed Findings (Fourth Public Opinion Survey on Political Reform) |

Background
 

In May 2007, 22 pan-democratic Legislative Councillors reached an agreement with the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong, whereby POP would conduct, roughly twice a month, regular opinion surveys to gauge people's views on universal suffrage of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council. Moreover, the pan-democrats would also sponsor POP to set up an online "Political Reform Opinion Platform" (PROP) at the "Hong Kong People's Opinion Platform" (http://hkpop.hk) for the public to express their views on political reform. The platform is designed and operated independently by POP.

On June 10, 25 and then July 9, 2007, POP released the findings of the first three opinion surveys of this tracking series on political reform via the "Hong Kong People's Opinion Platform" (http://hkpop.hk) and the "HKU POP SITE" (http://hkupop.hku.hk) simultaneously. Today, we release the findings of the fourth opinion survey using the same means. Readers are welcome to express their views on the platform, while journalists are also welcome to raise questions on the platform as registered members, or email them to <[email protected]>. We will reply as soon as we can.

Latest Figures
 

The latest survey findings released by POP today have been weighted according to the provisional figures obtained from the Census and Statistics Department regarding the gender-age distribution of the Hong Kong population at the end of 2006. Herewith the contact information for the latest survey:

 Date of survey   Sample base   Overall response rate   Sampling error of percentages* 
 23-26/7/07   1,007   64.9%   +/- 3% 
* "95% confidence level" means that if we were to repeat a certain survey 100 times, using the same questions each time but with different random samples, we would expect 95 times getting a figure within the error margins specified.

Beginning in June 2007, POP has been measuring people's support for the pan-democrats' proposals on 2012 CE and LC elections. Please refer to the POP Site regarding the results of the first three surveys conducted from June 1 to 7, June 18 to 22 and July 3 to 6 respectively. Results of the latest survey are as follows:

 
  Date of survey  1-7/6/2007   18-22/6/2007   3-6/7/2007   23-26/7/2007   Latest Change^ 
  Sample base  1,022   1,026   1,011   1,007   -- 
  Overall response rate  59.7%   65.1%   63.3%   64.9%   -- 
  Sampling error of percentages 
(at 95% confidence level)*
 +/-3%   +/-3%   +/-3%   +/-3%   -- 
 Regarding the Chief Executive election in 2012, it is proposed that 400 directly elected district councillors should be added to the existing 800-member Election Committee, adding up to a total of approximately 1,200 committee members. The number of subscribers required should be 50 regardless of the sector they belong to. The Chief Executive should ultimately be elected by universal suffrage. Do you support or oppose this proposal?**
  Support  52%   57%   49%   56%   +7% 
  Half-half  22%   17%   20%   20%   -- 
  Oppose  17%   14%   20%   15%   -5% 
  Don't know/hard to say  10%   13%   12%   9%   -3% 
 Regarding the Legislative Council election in 2012, it is proposed that a mixed election model would be adopted, whereby half of the seats would be returned by a "single seat single vote" simple majority system. The other half of the seats would be returned through elections by the "proportional representation system" so that each voter can cast two votes. Do you support or oppose this proposal?**
  Support  40%   45%   48%   48%   -- 
  Half-half  21%   18%   19%   18%   -1% 
  Oppose  21%   15%   19%   21%   +2% 
  Don't know/hard to say  19%   22%   14%   13%   -1% 
* "95% confidence level" means that if we were to repeat a certain survey 100 times, using the same questions each time but with different random samples, we would expect 95 times getting a figure within the error margins specified.
** Collapsed from a 5-point scale.
 

Regarding the selection of the Chief Executive in 2012, one of the proposals is that 400 directly elected district councilors would be added to the existing 800-member Election Committee, adding up to a total of approximately 1,200 committee members. The number of subscribers required would be 50 regardless of the sector they belong to. The Chief Executive would finally be returned by universal suffrage. Results of our survey conducted in late-July showed that this proposal attained a support rate of 56% versus 15% opposition. As for the Legislative Council election in 2012, one of the proposals is to adopt a mixed election model, whereby half of the seats would be returned by a "single seat single vote" simple majority system. The other half of the seats would be returned through elections by the "proportional representation system" so that each voter can cast two votes. Results of our survey conducted in late-July showed that this proposal attained a support rate of 48%, versus 21% opposition.

Besides, the survey also gauged respondents' opinion on the recently published Green Paper on Constitutional Development. The findings are listed as follows:

 On the roadmap and timetable for the universal suffrage of Chief Executive (CE) election, one of the opinions in society is to directly establish a nominating committee in 2012 to attain universal suffrage. Another opinion holds that a transitional phase shall be introduced before the actual implementation of universal suffrage in 2017. A third proposal is that Hong Kong is to undergo a transitional phase while universal suffrage should be attained after 2017. Of the above 3 opinions, which one are you more inclined to? 
 To establish a nominating committee directly in 2012 to attain universal suffrage  37% 
 To go through a transitional phase and attain universal suffrage in 2017  32% 
 To go through a transitional phase and attain universal suffrage after 2017   20% 
 Don't know/hard to say  11% 
 Total   100% 
 Assume that a nominating committee is to be set up directly to attain universal suffrage of CE in 2012, there is a view that the nominating committee should consist of less than 800 members. Another view holds that the nominating committee should be constituted by 800 members while a third view proposes a nominating committee with over 800 members, say to increase the number of members to between 1,200 to 1,600. Which of the above proposals are you more inclined to? 
 Nominating committee to be constituted by more than 800 members   66% 
 Nominating committee to be constituted by 800 members  17% 
 Nominating committee to be constituted by less than 800 members  8% 
 Don't know/hard to say  10% 
 Total   100% 
 On the roadmap and timetable for the universal suffrage of the Legislative Council (LegCo), there is an opinion that universal suffrage should be attained in 2012 while another view holds that it should be attained in phases in 2016. A third view proposes attaining universal suffrage in phases after 2016. Which view are you more inclined to?
 Attaining universal suffrage in 2012   42% 
 Attaining universal suffrage in phases in 2016  31% 
 Attaining universal suffrage in phases after 2016  19% 
 Don't know/hard to say  9% 
 Total   100% 
 Assume that universal suffrage of the LegCo is to be attained in 2012, there is a view that functional constituency (FC) seats shall be replaced by district-based seats returned through direct election. Another proposal suggests the retaining of FC seats but changing its electoral method. A third proposal is to increase the number of seats representing District Councils in LegCo. Which view are you more inclined to?
 Retaining FC seats but changing the electoral method  34% 
 Increasing the number of seats representing District Councils in LegCo  28% 
 Replacing FC seats by district-based seats returned through direct election  23% 
 Don't know/hard to say  16% 
 Total   100% 

* "95% confidence level" means that if we were to repeat a certain survey 100 times, using the same questions each time but with different random samples, we would expect 95 times getting a figure within the error margins specified.

Finding showed that 37% of the respondents said establishing a nominating committee directly in 2012 to attain universal suffrage, 32% opted for going through a transitional phase and attain universal suffrage in 2017. 20% thought going through a transitional phase and attain universal suffrage after 2017 and 11% could not give a definite answer. Assume that a nominating committee is to be set up directly to attain universal suffrage of CE in 2012, 66% thought the nominating committee should be constituted by more than 800 members, 17% said 800 members while 8% said less than 800 members. 10% could not give a definite answer.

Besides, 42% thought the universal suffrage of the LegCo should be attained in 2012, 31% said attaining universal suffrage in phases in 2016 and 19% thought attaining universal suffrage in phases after 2016. 9% could not give a definite answer. Assume that universal suffrage of the LegCo is to be attained in 2012, 34% said retaining FC seats but changing the electoral method. The percentages of respondents who thought increasing the number of seats representing District Councils in LegCo and replacing FC seats by district-based seats returned through direct election were 28% and 23% respectively. 16% could not give a definite answer.

Finally, the survey asked respondents' views on prior vetting mechanisms, the result is as follows:

 Some people hold the view a prior vetting mechanism should be added to the Chief Executive election to secure the acceptance of candidates by the Central government. However, some hold another view that no prior vetting mechanism is needed because the Basic Law has already stipulated that CE had to be appointed by the Central government and is responsible to it, thus securing Central Government's endorsement of the candidates. Which view are you more inclined to support?
 Inclined to support adding prior vetting mechanism  44% 
 Inclined to support no prior vetting mechanism  42% 
 Agree to both  1% 
 Neither of them  3% 
 Don't know/hard to say  11% 
 Total  100% 


Regarding people's opinion on adding prior vetting mechanisms to the Chief Executive election, this survey asked respondents to judge whether existing stipulations in the Basic Law were enough to guarantee Central Government's endorsement of the candidates, 44% were inclined to support adding a prior vetting mechanism, while 42% were inclined to oppose it, another 15% either said don't know or did not know how to choose.


Commentary

On July 11, the HKSAR Government released its "Green Paper on Constitutional Development". In it the government listed a number of survey-type questions with specific answers. A government official responsible for the consultation even suggested research organizations to adopt those questions to poll people's opinion. On such suggestions, Robert Ting-Yiu Chung, Director of Public Opinion Programme, responded after studying the Green Paper, "While there are good grounds for the government to suggest such a polling method, it contains serious deficiencies if adopted in total as the final reference. For example, regarding CE election, the Green Paper asked 3 questions, each with 3 answers. Simple arithmetic shows that there are 27 combinations of possible answers, and each person may just 'support' or 'accept' only one or a few of these 27 combinations. If we incorporate the two questions on LC election, then the number of combinations will increase to 243. Exactly how many of these combinations are supported by the people requires very careful analysis. For example, some people might accept a relatively conservative proposal on the constitution of the nomination committee, if CE is returned by universal suffrage in 2012. However, if the date is pushed to beyond 2017, people may opt for a very open nomination system. Using a simple questionnaire design suggested by the government may not be able to paint the picture. Moreover, from a survey designer's point of view, the answer items offered by the Green Paper are also insufficient. For example, the Green Paper asks people how many CE candidates there should be, and offered three options of 2 to 4, 8 at most, and 10 or more. What if some people want nine? It seems that the set of three questions we used in our last survey is more useful. We asked, 'If a nomination committee were to be set up to nominate or vet candidates for the 2012 Chief Executive election before entering the stage of universal suffrage, at least how many candidates do you think should be nominated?' 'What do you think is the ideal number of candidates to be nominated by the nomination committee for the universal suffrage?' and 'What do you think is the maximum number of candidates to be nominated by the nomination committee for the universal suffrage?' We therefore decided not to repeat this topic in this survey."

Still on the government's proposed survey method, Robert Chung added, "This is no single perfect method of conducting surveys. The government's proposed method serves as one possible reference, but should not be adopted in total. As a matter of fact, the Green Paper did not use the same method to ask people for opinion on the very important and sensitive issue of 'democratic procedures of nomination' and the 'prior vetting mechanism' relating to it. This significantly undercuts the usefulness of the '5 questions of 3 choices' approach suggested by the Green Paper. We at POP will try to design a detailed and comprehensive model questionnaire in the next few weeks for use by other non-government organizations. At this stage, we will continue to track public opinion with the mechanism we have set up in June, namely, about two tracking surveys each month, each with about 6 opinion questions."

With respect to the research design of this tracking survey, Robert Chung explained, "Because POP does not have the resources to conduct a comprehensive survey on the Green Paper, and because discussion of the Green Paper has just begun, we have only used very limited resources to respond to the Green Paper. As explained before, of the five questions posted by the government, POP has decided to skip the one on the number CE candidates due to methodological flaws. As a matter of fact, in our press release last time, we have already pointed out that 'people on average would like the nomination committee to provide at least 6, preferably 8 but not more than 14 candidates for people to choose by one person one vote'. As for the remaining four questions posted by the government, although we consider the two questions on 'roadmap and timetable' to be error-prone, we have nevertheless used them almost word-by-word in this survey to test the water. As for the question on CE election nomination committee, and that on options for forming the LC, we have to limit ourselves to the most popular scenario according to our previous surveys, namely, 'assuming that there will be universal suffrage in 2012'. In case this parameter is changed, people's choice of the other items may change a lot. We will explore such scenarios in future."

On the general findings of this survey, Robert Chung observed, "On the pan-democrats' proposals regarding universal suffrage for CE and LC in 2012, their latest support rates are 56% and 48% respectively. The former represents an increase of 7 percentage points since the last survey, back to the level registered one month ago. For the latter, there is not much change over the past three surveys. On the 'roadmap and timetable' of universal suffrage, although we have adopted the error-prone question posted by the Green Paper, we still find that 2012 is the most favourable choice made by the people. For CE election, 37% chose 2012, and for LC election, 42%, both being most favourable choices. Assuming that CE would be returned by universal suffrage in 2012, and again using the error-prone questions posted by the Green Paper, 66% answered that the nominating committee should consist of more than 800 members. As for LC election, most people chose retaining the functional seats but changing their election methods. However, opinion is split, as even this most favourable answer only captures the support of about one-third of the respondents. On the issue of 'CE election prior vetting mechanism' which POP began to study in the second last survey, this survey has found that opinion is almost equally divided between those who think the Basic Law has already provided sufficient precautions to guarantee Central Government's blessing of the candidates, and those who think that a prior vetting mechanism should be introduced. Each of these opposing views has the support of over 40%. It seems that mainstream opinion on this issue is yet to be formed, and we need to continue studying it."

In the coming few months, POP will continue to conduct frequent surveys on political reform, as well as to collect public opinion through the online "Hong Kong People's Opinion Platform" (http://hkpop.hk). Robert Chung calls on all journalists and members of the public to make good use of the platform in order to show the power of civil society. Members of the general public can become registered members of the platform at any time, and then make free submissions. Journalists, on the other hand, can raise questions to us at any time, by sending emails to <[email protected]>. We will reply as soon as possible, and upload all questions and answers to the platform at appropriate times, to enhance our collective wisdom.

 

| Background | Latest Figures | Commentary
| Detailed Findings (Fourth Public Opinion Survey on Political Reform) |