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Latest poll gives Ma 8-percent lead over Tsai

TAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) has an 8 percent lead over his main competitor Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, an academic survey showed Friday, 44 days before the presidential election.

The results suggest that Ma would garner 34 percent of the vote, Tsai 26 percent and People First Party (PFP) Chair James Soong 10 percent, said Peter Gries, director of University of Oklahoma's Institute for U.S.-China Issues that conducted the survey.

Meanwhile, 30 percent of the respondents said they have not yet decided who to vote for in the Jan. 14. election, said Gries, a visiting scholar at National Taiwan University.

If Soong drops out of the race, leaving the KMT and DPP battling for the presidency, Ma's support will rise to 45 percent and Tsai's to 30 percent, he said. The percentage of undecided voters would then decline to 25 percent, he added.

The undecided group is mainly composed of individuals who are female, younger, less wealthy, but slightly more educated, Gries said.

Although the support rates differ little from polls commissioned by the local media and think tanks in recent months, Gries' study tapped into voter's gender, ethnic backgrounds, and identity profiles.

He found it interesting that more female than male voters favored Ma, while Soong had more support among males. However, gender was not a significant factor among Tsai's supporters, he noted.

In terms of ethnicity, the Hakka group was warmer toward Ma, he said, noting that people of mainland China origin tend to vote for pan-blue candidates. Those of Hoklo origin are more ambivalent about their ideal president, he added.

Gries noted that the partisanship is driven by many issues, some of which are identity and cross-strait relations.

Ma supporters, for example, identify themselves more as “Chinese” than “Taiwanese.” Tsai's supporters, on the other hand, think of themselves more as Taiwanese, and Soong's supporters identify least as Taiwanese.

On cross-strait issues, Ma's supporters identify more closely with his stance and see Tsai as taking an extremist independence stance. Meanwhile, Tsai's supporters see Ma as being on an extremist path toward unification.

The online survey was conducted among 500 adults nationwide from Nov. 17 to 28. It was one of the larger Internet polls on political trends in Taiwan.

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