Poll seen as vote on suffrage but economic issues the key: survey
Almost half the respondents in a survey think Sunday's Legislative Council by-election is a 'de facto referendum on universal suffrage'.
The SCMP/TNS survey questioned 1,000 registered Hong Kong Island voters between November 13 and 21 and found 46 per cent agreed the by-election was effectively a vote on democracy compared to 32 per cent who disagreed. Another 22 per cent said they did not know.
Some 55 per cent of respondents believed former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang was the candidate most capable of facilitating political reform or helping attain universal suffrage, more than twice as many as her closest rival, former security secretary Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, with 25 per cent.
However, the margin was narrower when it came to who should be returned to Legco. Forty-nine per cent said they would vote for Mrs Chan, while 33 per cent would vote for Mrs Ip.
Both candidates say they are striving for universal suffrage in 2012, however Mrs Ip's proposals include a fallback option of implementing full elections for the chief executive in 2017 should it not be possible earlier.
Mrs Ip's nomination method for chief executive candidates also requires candidates obtain at least 10 per cent support from all four sectors of the nomination committee to ensure the 'interests of different sectors of society' are accommodated.
Pan-democrats say this is in fact a screening mechanism, and will not give citizens a real choice, since Beijing-friendly sectors can effectively veto a candidate.
In the survey, only 20 per cent think their stance on political reform was a primary consideration for choosing a candidate, compared to 22 per cent who think candidates' track record in public office was the most important, and 33 per cent who think their stance on economic and livelihood issues mattered most.
A whopping 88 per cent of respondents also confirmed they intended to vote on Sunday, although Chinese University pollster and political analyst Timothy Wong ka-ying said it was normal for around 80 per cent of survey respondents to say they will vote, but far fewer actually headed to the ballot box on polling day.
He estimated 48 per cent to 52 per cent of voters would turn out. Four per cent of respondents said they would not vote, and 8 per cent did not know yet.
Since the beginning of the week, pan-democrats have been sending out 'situation critical' messages on a daily basis saying, 'please don't be fooled by the polls' and that Mrs Chan needs at least 50 per cent of voters to turn out to ensure a win.
Dr Wong said given past Legco election experience, pan-democratic candidates did better when the turnout rates were higher, although he thought Mrs Chan was reasonably secure of a victory.
'However, as with all fair and free elections, there is always an element of uncertainty,' he said.
'It would be an unimaginable setback for the pan-democrats if they lose this, so I'm sure they are just trying to erase any margin for error, and doing all they can to obtain every possible vote.'
Stanley Chaing Chi-wai came a distant third with 3 per cent of the votes in the survey, while Ho Loy and Jimmy Siu See-kong each received 1 per cent. Lee Wing-kin, Lau Yuk-shing and Cecilia Ling Wai-wan received less than 0.5 per cent support.
The majority of the respondents were 45 or older and were either business owners, directors, supervisors, or skilled white collar employees.