Hong Kong election pollsters in U-turn on methodology after complaints by parties

From now on HKU academics will tell respondents who is second on the list of candidates in each geographical constituency

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 9:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 11:01pm

Pollsters at the University of Hong Kong made a U-turn on Monday and changed the methodology of a rolling poll on the Legislative Council elections after political parties across the spectrum cast doubts on its reliability.

Angry parties, including the Democrats, People Power and the Liberal Party, had pointed to the small sample size of the poll – 100 to 300 people in each of the five geographical constituencies – and the pollsters’ failure to mention aspirants placed second on a slate when questioning respondents.

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Several outgoing lawmakers are running second on tickets in an attempt to secure seats for their protégés. Under the proportional representation system these veterans have little chance of winning.

In a statement last Friday, the HKU Public Opinion Programme said it would not consider altering its methodology as it had found no significant statistical difference between mentioning one and two candidates on the slate in a test when polling 469 people from August 11 to 15.

But it backtracked and decided to mention two candidates on the slate to respondents from Monday night onwards.

“[HKU POP] made this decision after taking into account opinions from all walks of life and we believe [the change] is manageable,” Frank Lee, the programme’s research manager, told the Post.

The pollsters had earlier said the number of slates in direct elections had increased drastically and they had no choice but to name only the first aspirant on each list, saying it was the best they could do.

When asked if they could have done better from the beginning, Lee said: “We will not look back.”

Dominic Lee Tsz-king, a Liberal Party candidate running in New Territories East who had criticised the poll’s methodology, said he “welcomes the pollsters making amends”.

The TV and radio have been running the results of the poll every hour and voters have already formed an impression on the candidates
Albert Chan Wai-yip, People Power

The level of support for Lee’s list, with veteran James Tien Pei-chun standing in second place, was 4.1 per cent when Tien’s name was read to respondents. Without Tien’s name read out it was 2.6 per cent, according to the test.

People Power’s Albert Chan Wai-yip, who is running second with the League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming in New Territories West, said the change had come too late as the “damage had been done”.

“The TV and radio have been running the results of the poll every hour and voters have already formed an impression on the candidates,” he said.

The parties earlier had expressed their worries over the poll, which they said might mislead voters into giving up on hopefuls who in fact had a chance of winning.

The poll was commissioned by three media organisations and Power of Democracy.