The Information Coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive has questioned the accuracy of the latest findings by the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong (HKUPOP), after the research centre released the latest index on Thursday. It reported that the city’s Public Sentiment Index (PSI) was at its lowest in 20 years.

The Research Manager of the Public Opinion Programme, Winnie Lee, said that the index’s level, which plunged by 11.6 points to 61.4 in early December, can be considered as among the worst 1 % over the past two decades. This figure was even lower than that in 2003, when the PSI fell to 63.8, Ming Pao reported.

“Specifically, the Government Appraisal Score, which reflects people’s view of governance went down 6.3 points to 73.2, while the Society Appraisal Score, which reflects people’s opinion of the social environment, plunged by 10.9 points to 71.1. The latest GA and the SA Scores can be considered as among the worst 4% and 3% over the past 20 plus years respectively,” she said.

PSI figures
Photo: HKUPOP.

The PSI aims to quantify Hong Kong people’s sentiments for the purposes of explaining and predicting collective behaviour. HKUPOP began the study in 2010 with NowTV and the first survey was conducted in June 2010. HKUPOP officially released a “PSI analysis” at the end of June 2012, with figures dating back to 1992 and spanning over 20 years. The frequency of the study was set at twice a month.

Scientific and fair? asks Information Coordinator

Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, Information Coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive, questioned whether the research accurately reflected reality, and whether it was scientific and fair. In a column in Headline Daily on Monday, he said that there was no way that today’s situation could be worse than that of July 2003.

andrew fung
Andrew Fung.

During that period, Hongkongers had been plagued with problems such as deflation, unemployment and heavy debts following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, he said. There was also the outbreak of SARS and the controversy surrounding the Article 23 legislation. There were none of these problems today, but according the HKUPOP, the PSI is lower than that of 2003.

“Is it scientific? Is it fair?” he asked.

Fung also said that the HKUPOP numbers contradicted each other, because in the same study it was shown that people’s sentiments towards political, economic and livelihood conditions fell only slightly, by 0.1, and over the past six investigations there were only small changes in the numbers. However, there had suddenly been a huge drop in the PSI, and HKUPOP failed to explain why, he said.

“Calling it the worst result in the past two decades with contradictory figures but not digging deeper into the questions… HKUPOP says that they do academic research, but academic in what way? What kind of research?”

HKFP has contacted HKUPOP for comment.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.