Poll shows big rise in numbers undecided on '97 hopefuls as wait-and-see

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 1996, 12:00am

SUPPORT for Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang as chief executive has dropped by a third in a fortnight, according to an exclusive opinion poll for the Sunday Morning Post.

With three main candidates in the race, many people seem to have switched to a wait-and-see approach, with a dramatic increase in those who say they are reserving their opinion.

The survey by Asian Commercial Research last Thursday and Friday showed that Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang was still the most popular choice. But her support has dropped sharply from 60 per cent in the summer to 31.5 per cent - presumably a reflection of the belief that she is unlikely to run.

When Mrs Chan was removed from the polling, Sir Ti Liang led the field. But the 29.7 per cent score was a far cry from the 45.6 per cent he received two weeks earlier.

In answer to a separate question about whether they would approve if various candidates were selected in the end, respondents gave him an approval rating of 57.9 per cent, compared to 73 per cent two weeks ago.

Shipping magnate Tung Chee-hwa, who formally declared his candidacy at the end of the week, received 23.3 per cent support - one point down on the beginning of this month - and 50.6 per cent said they would approve if he was chosen in the end.

Businessman Peter Woo Kwong-ching received 8.5 per cent backing - one point down on two weeks ago - with a 27.7 per cent approval rating.

A representative sample of 624 people was interviewed by telephone for the poll.

In all, 33.5 per cent expressed no opinion, compared to 11.5 per cent a fortnight ago.

Dr Li Pang-kwong, a lecturer in the Department of Politics and Sociology at Lingnan College, said Sir Ti Liang had lost support because of his relatively low profile. 'The figures show a lot of Sir Ti Liang's supporters have now moved to those expressing no opinion,' he said.

Campaigning for the top post continued yesterday, with Sir Ti Liang appearing on a radio talk show and Mr Woo speaking to a seminar about the Hong Kong economy.

Sir Ti Liang said he would be lenient to Chinese dissidents in the territory but would not criticise how China handles such issues, in the hope that the mainland would not comment on how things were done in Hong Kong.

The candidates, however, have no major engagements planned for today or tomorrow, the Chung Yeung Festival.

Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming, who had enjoyed 10 per cent backing in the summer, has fallen to 5.2 per cent, presumably because he is also seen as a non-runner.

All three leading candidates received better approval ratings among men than women. Both Sir Ti Liang and Mr Woo scored well among those aged under 34 and those earning more than $30,000 a month. Mr Tung was just ahead of Sir Ti Liang among those earning between $10,000 and $20,000 a month.