THE number of Hong Kong people who believe an agreement will be reached on the territory's political reforms has plunged to a record low. Of the more than 500 people polled on Wednesday and Thursday when the 11th round of Sino-British talks was held, only 37 per cent said they were optimistic about an agreement. In surveys conducted between late April, when the talks started, and late July, the percentage was between 57 and 63. Those more pessimistic about the outlook for the talks were on the rise, soaring from eight per cent in late April to 32.5 per cent this week. The respondents were also more gloomy about the prospects of the two governments heeding their wishes in reaching an agreement. While 24.7 per cent of the respondents believed their wishes would be listened to, 45.7 per cent thought otherwise. Compiled by the Social Sciences Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong, the findings were in sharp contrast to the mood in late April when 33 per cent believed their wishes would be taken care of and 38 per cent did not. Notwithstanding China's objection to Britain's proposal for a functional constituency for civil servants, the survey found that about 46 per cent of respondents supported the idea, while 31.9 per cent did not. Correspondingly, 43.6 per cent said they were in favour of allowing civil servants to join political parties or participate in elections, with 32.9 per cent thinking otherwise. Despite the latest war of words between China and Britain, Governor Chris Patten's popularity remained steady. On a 100-point scale, the rating this week stood at 57.1 points, compared with 59 points a week ago. Those rejecting any secret agreement on the constitutional plan remained steady at between 67 and 70 per cent.