New round Path of Democracy’s 1C2S Index stands at 6.51, no significant difference for the past half year

Negative international opinions on 1C2S

Path of Democracy(PoD) has developed the One Country Two Systems Index (1C2S Index) since last year; the new round index score is 6.51. The score of public’s evaluation of 1C2S, and Freedom and Democracy Index from international think tanks indices are 4.98 and 8.04 respectively. Despite the fact that politically, it was an eventful period for the last 6 months, the drop of the index score, in comparison with that of last time was minimal. PoD has also created a 1C2S Mass Media Index, which is a first of its kind in Hong Kong, to reflect the sentiment of the media which in turn influences public opinion.

PoD announces the new round 1C2S Index score today. The second reading of the 1C2S Index, compiled by data from both a public survey, commissioned by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and International Freedom and Democracy Indices from international indices, comes in at 6.51.

For the first part of the index, 1,006 individuals were successfully and randomly sampled in a telephone survey carried out during mid-December in 2017; the index score of the survey sits at 4.98. Professor Sung Yun-Wing, the project leader and governor of PoD, pointed out that by comparing the score with that from 6 months ago, in the 8 questions that are identical in both rounds of surveys, the ratings of 5 questions have fallen: A high degree of autonomy in the executive branch, judiciary independence, legislative independence, freedom of speech, and the successful implementation of “Self Governance, High Autonomy” principles. Given the many political controversies over the last 6 months, the fall of these five scores is not surprising.

The scores of two questions have increased, namely “resolving differences between Hong Kong and the Mainland via dialogue and negotiation”, and “the gradual implementation of institutional democratisation process”. The scores of these two questions might have been positively affected by the efforts of Chief Executive Carrie Lam to heal societal divisions.

The second metric, Freedom and Democracy Index, is based on 3 international indices, namely Economic Freedom Index, Personal Freedom Index, and Democracy Index, and comes in at 8.04 in the current round of study, while the last score was 8.19.

As mentioned above, opinions of international think tanks on Hong Kong have turned negative due to the events of the last 6 months. In this study, our indices by reference to international indices are only updated to 2016 due to data limitations. According to Sung, the indices probably would deteriorate more given the continuation of controversies. In 2017, the scores of Hong Kong’s Democracy Index (EIU) and World Freedom Index (Freedom House) fell by 1.7% and 3.3% respectively.

Despite these declines, Hong Kong’s scores and rankings in the Personal Freedom Index, Democracy Index, and the Freedom and Democracy Index remain way above those of the Mainland. The fear that Hong Kong has become ‘Mainlandised’ is vastly exaggerated.

Other than that, comparing the two rounds, Prof Sung pointed out that given the many controversies that occurred between the two series of surveys, the very slight deterioration of the overall Index is negligible and unexpected.

It is worth noting that,  in both rounds of polls, a majority of the public (55.9% in the first round and 56.1% in the second round) strongly identify themselves as both ‘Hong Kongers’ and ‘Chinese’. Public opinion on the appointment of Carrie Lam as CE is positive: 50.7% indicate that social divisions remain unchanged while 42.3% indicate that they have decreased; only 7% indicated that they have increased. Comparing with last time, people feel more positive towards social divisions.

The telephone survey also asked questions about “co-location arrangement”. Results show that 52% of the public “support” or “strongly support” the ‘co-location arrangement’ for the Express Rail Link. Only 21.6% “oppose” or “strongly oppose”. Sung said that this shows Hong Kong people are pragmatic and positive towards the issue.

Moreover, the results show that most Hong Kong people still want 1C2S to be successful. This is confirmed by comparing the results of the question “how confident are you that the conflicts can be resolved through consultation and dialogue?”. Although the score is still the lowest among all, the percentage of positive answers have actually risen.

Additionally, in order to monitor how media sentiment influences public opinion, PoD has created a new 1C2S “Mass Media Index” by surveying over 123,000 news articles and 61 million words from 20 local daily newspapers. 1C2S MMI monitors how 1C2S is conveyed in the mass media to provide a timely barometer of public sentiment towards 1C2S.

The overall trend of MMI is compared to two well-known opinion polls on public’s views towards 1C2S, namely, the polls of RTHK and HKU Public Opinion Programme. The trend of the MMI is similar to that of the two polls: Rising in the early 2000’s to a peak around 2007, then falling to a trough around 2014-16 with Occupy Central and the civil unrest in Mongkok, then recovering thereafter.

The 1C2S MMI had risen sharply since December 2016, when CY Leung declared that he would not run for a second term. This rise was further boosted in 2017 when Carrie Lam was elected CE. The MMI rose from 84 in December 2016 to a peak of 100 in mid-2017. The 1C2S MMI index in the second half of 2017 comes in at 97. This is consistent with the slight decrease of the main Index.

In the longer run, subject to resource availability, the MMI opens up many opportunities of further research in public opinion formation. The MMI can be compiled at high-frequency intervals (e.g. monthly) as it is not subject to the long time lags of telephone surveys. It is also possible to investigate the effect of specific significant events (e.g., co-location arrangement for the Express Rail link) on media sentiment, or to compare sentiments in the local and overseas media.

Main findings of the current round of 1C2S Index are as follows:

  1. Given the recent political events, including disqualifications of LegCo councillors, co-location arrangement, national anthem law, amendment of the Rules of Procedure of LegCo, sentences on student leaders, people’s view on 1C2S shows no significant difference from the previous survey.
  2. International opinions on 1C2S have turned negative.
  3. Strong recognition of dual identities as ‘Hong Kongers’ and ‘Chinese’ among public should not be neglected.
  4. The Hong Kong public has been positive about Carrie Lam. Although half interviewees indicate that social divisions remain unchanged, compared with last time, more people feel positive than negative towards social divisions.
  5. Positive answers to questions relating to co-location arrangement and amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the LegCo to restrict filibusters show Hong Kong people are pragmatic, and not easily swayed by political slogans or extreme views.
  6. Although the score of the question “how confident are you that the conflicts can be resolved through consultation and dialogue?” is relatively low, people are more confident in relation to this issue than last time.