Pre-election polls prove less than accurate

Sunday, January 15, 2012
By Eric Huang,The China Post

The 2012 presidential election campaign provided a venue for a wide variety of polling, yet the outcome remained anyone's guess until the end.

In the end, President Ma Ying-jeou squeaked to victory with 6.89 million votes. He managed to meet, or even surpass, expectations with majority support of 51.5 percent. His main challenger, the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen, finished second at 45.7 percent. Most pleasing to Ma may have been the relatively weak third-place showing of James Soong.

The final estimates of the pre-election polls, the bread and butter of the polling industry, were suggesting it would be a close race, with no clear winning candidate.

The 2012 presidential election produced a near 800,000 popular vote victory for Ma, over a million votes less than his 2008 victory. Most of the poll estimates were within the range of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The final numbers released by a TVBS poll 10 days before the election showed Ma ahead by 3 percent — the largest margin in any of the pre-election polls. TVBS produced a final unreleased estimate on Friday, Jan. 13, projecting Ma to lead Tsai by 43 to 35 percent.

The Taiwan Brain Trust (新台灣國策智庫有限公司), on the other hand, projected a neck-and-neck outcome showing Tsai leading by 40.4 percent over Ma with 38.3 percent.

An unusual listing in a number of regards was the Now News online survey. The survey showed Soong leading the race with 45 percent, followed by Ma with 26.73 percent and Tsai trailing behind with 25.06 percent.

The interactive Internet estimate released on Dec. 28, 2010, undoubtedly reflected opinions of the younger, online community.

While the X Future Prediction Market (未來事件交易所) estimated on Jan. 3 that Tsai would carry a victory by 6 percent with Tsai comfortably earning 48.6 percent, Ma with 42.5 percent and Soong 10.2 percent support.

The last released poll by the pro-DPP Liberty Times suggested a near tie, with numbers placed within the margin of error; Ma was predicted to gain 35.77 percent of the vote, Tsai 35.05 percent and Soong with 9.7 percent.

On the other hand, the last estimate of the pro-KMT China Times projected a Ma victory with 41.3 percent support over Tsai's 38.5, with Soong trailing at 6.6 percent.

When considering the election from an historical perspective, the overabundance of incorrect and biased polls has paved the way for the “no polls policy,” which takes place during the last 10 days of the election.

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