Poll: More Thais taking sides bodes ill for government

Poll: More Thais taking sides bodes ill for government

Super Poll also finds government communication failing because each coalition party is beating its own drum

People celebrate the new year at CentralWorld in Bangkok on Dec 31. More Thais have taken political sides, a study found, and this bodes ill for politicial stability and the government. (Photo by Pornprom Sattrabhaya)
People celebrate the new year at CentralWorld in Bangkok on Dec 31. More Thais have taken political sides, a study found, and this bodes ill for politicial stability and the government. (Photo by Pornprom Sattrabhaya)

More Thais have taken political sides as the “silent force” that was once a majority of the population has shrunk substantially since the March election, spelling doom for political stability and the government, according to a study by a pollster.

Super Poll said it reached the conclusion based on an online “social media voice” survey involving 2,827 people combined with responses from another 1,131 “traditional voice” samples.

It found the silent group — those who do not count themselves among either the pro-government or anti-government group — had dwindled substantially since the March 24, 2019 general election — from 56.1% last April to 29.4% early this month.

“This is ominous for political stability and the government,” said Noppadol Kannikar, director of Super Poll.

The results showed the silent force, which until now had served as a bridge in a highly polarised country, has clearly taken sides, with 36.6% joining the anti-government side and 34% supporting the government.

The narrowing margin signalled an intensifying risk of confrontation, added Mr Noppadol.

Interestingly, a major reason more people in this group turned to supporting the government is the “us-or-them” mentality — they simply do not accept the anti-government group being in power under any circumstances.

The other major reason is that they benefit from government measures such as the Taste, Shop, Spend (Chim-Shop-Chai) cash-back programme, welfare cards for low-income earners, and farm price support policies such as the B10 energy policy that requires more use of palm nuts, and community power plants.

Those leaning to the anti-government group, meanwhile, cited boredom as a reason. They don’t know what the government is doing and read news that the government is doing badly — failing to solve economic problems, favouring its supporters, bullying enemies, bickering for positions and power.

A lot of people also view government measures are not very beneficial to them or sustainable. They also worry about losing jobs and feel the government is too strict about taxing small businesses while not supporting them enough. As well, new regulations make it harder for them to make a living.

Mr Noppadol said the social media survey found communication by anti-government sources including Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as other activities such as the Run Against Dictatorship (RAD) campaign, reached 7.3 million people .

By comparison, the prime minister’s Run for the Land, his answer to the RAD, reached 590,000 people and was mentioned by a mere 1,410.

The graph line of Run Against Dictatorship is rising while the Run for the Land is flatlining, Mr Noppadol said.

The survey found the government has lost big-time in the communication war to the point it cannot afford to go on.

He explained this is because of the lack of integration of the communication team of the government. As a coalition of several parties, each tends to promote its own work instead of the government’s, as reflected in posts where names and positions are prominently displayed. The practice prevents the content from reaching the hearts of the people.

“In contrast, Mr Thanathorn and Thaksin, as well as the RAD activity, send messages as a group which has more impact. Their catch phrases are quickly adopted and become popular hashtags dominating social media,” said Mr Noppadol. 

“Politics is emotional management. If we can control people’s emotions, we stay on. The messages from one side play with people’s emotions to create group behaviour while the prime minister’s messages use a ‘rational’ focus.   

“The government’s communications team lacks unity so the result is less than a bang. For them, a launch date is a closing date — there is no follow-up team to repeat and spread the messages and there’s no engagement and interaction with target groups.”

If nothing is done to improve this weakness, the government’s days could be numbered, he added.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, a key figure in the Palang Pracharath Party, said the coalition parties remained united since the government was determined to help people and solve their problems.

Discussing the planned no-confidence debate against the prime minister and some ministers, he said he was ready to explain how external factors are affecting the Thai economy.

“We’re determined to speed up the implementation of policies, especially after the budget bill is passed,” he said.

PPRP spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the opposition should focus on the government’s performance over the past five months or after the government was formed.

“The government has worked transparently with no corruption so it’s unlikely the opposition can topple it in a censure debate. We’ve done everything for the people and we’ve done so much. People will be our shield,” he said.

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