What you need to know
It may not be surprising that the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak cast a long shadow over Taiwan, as it has with the rest of the world.
Taiwanese netizens’ sentiment towards Taiwan’s environment in the future 12 months are most optimistic
16.3% of Taiwanese felt optimistic about Taiwan having a positive next six months in March 2020, before the Covid outbreak that began in May. At that point in time, however, in light of how Covid began in 2019, many Taiwanese already felt negative about the past twelve months, with views skewing toward a negative assessment of the past twelve months by 5.4%. This took place at a time in which Taiwan had mostly been shielded from the effects of Covid-19, which had been stopped at Taiwan’s borders.
This sparked an immediate decline in confidence, with results skewing in 5.1% toward negative views of Taiwan. Negative views peaked in June, in which negative views of the next twelve months were 26.9%, and 64.3% had negative views of the past twelve months.
This saw improvement with the subsequent reduction of cases. By November, 9.9% of Taiwanese were again positive about the next year, with Covid having been reduced to single-digit cases or no cases at all. Those that had negative views of the past twelve months were at 9.6%, possibly with the view that Taiwan had still done better than other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the results of the pandemic are still clearly felt, with confidence levels having not returned to pre-outbreak levels.
With the KMT seeking to attack the DPP over the issue of vaccines, labeling AstraZeneca as dangerous, and framing Moderna and BioNTech as the only safe vaccines, it may not be surprising that this affected choice of vaccine. According to survey results, 36.1% of KMT supporters got AstraZeneca for their first dose, compared to 49.2% of DPP supporters.
By contrast, 25.0% of KMT supporters were vaccinated with Moderna as their first dose and 36.5% with BioNTech. This compared to 18.3% of DPP supporters for Moderna and 24.9% for BioNTech.
With Medigen perceived as a Tsai administration initiative, it should not also surprise, then, that only 1.5% of self-identified KMT supporters were vaccinated with Medigen, as compared to 7.6% of DPP supporters. Nevertheless, this is different from the actual percentages of vaccination, in that some occupational groups did not have a choice of vaccine, and for booster shots, Taiwan is primarily relying on Moderna.
What is notable, too, is what events did not affect Taiwan. Chinese air incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ, reaching levels never before seen, with 196 planes deployed in October, did not affect this trend of rising confidence in the future and increasingly positive views of the last twelve months.
Following imported cases of the Omicron variant, this led to a downturn in confidence again in December, with negative views of the past twelve months increasing to 15.1% from 9.6% the month prior, then to 20.3% in January and 22.2% in February, and positive views of the next year decreasing from 9.9% to 5.2% and then 7.3% in January, returning to 2.3% in February. With the gradual improvement in this situation, positive views of the next year.
This did not prevent the DPP from sweeping the national referendum, however, which was framed by the KMT as not being a referendum on the four specific issues voted on, but on the Tsai administration’s governance as a whole. The pan-Green camp similarly performed well in the January recall vote directed at Freddy Lim and by-election in Taichung, which were also framed as a referendum on the DPP’s governance.
The DPP may still be perceived as having been successful in its handling of Covid-19, then. Or it is possible that the Covid-19 outbreak is viewed as something like a natural disaster, with blame not rebounding onto the DPP. However, it is clear that Covid has not been damaging to the DPP’s political outlook, as the KMT might have hoped for.
TNL editor: Wen Huang