All but one of four public opinion polls show that former finance chief John Tsang is the most popular candidate in Hong Kong’s leadership race.

Tsang has consistently led three opinion polls conducted by three universities – the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Chinese University, and Lingnan University – even before he declared run in January.

John Tsang
John Tsang. Photo: John Tsang.

HKU poll

In the latest poll commissioned by news outlet HK01 and conducted by HKU last week, 50 per cent of 999 respondents supported Tsang. The figure is a new record high in the poll.

Meanwhile, the popularity ratings of candidates Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing are at a record low, with 31 and 10 per cent of the respondents indicating support for the pair respectively.

CUHK poll

Another poll – conducted last week by the Chinese University and commissioned by the Hong Kong Economic Journal – found that 41.2 per cent of 1,018 respondents supported Tsang, while 34.3 per cent and 11.8 per cent backed Lam and Woo respectively.

Woo Kwok-hing
Woo Kwok-hing meeting protesters. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

However, nearly 70 per cent of the respondents believed Lam would win in the election. Around 58 per cent believed public opinion did not have an impact on the election.

The poll also asked respondents to explain their candidate preference. Over half of Tsang’s supporters believed he could mend social divisions, while the most cited reason for supporting Lam was her perceived ability to improve livelihoods.

Over 65 per cent of Woo’s supporters said they prefered the former judge because of his commitment to defend the rule of law and human rights.

Lingan poll

Broadcaster Now TV also commissioned Lingnan University to conduct an opinion poll last week. The results showed Tsang’s popularity rating at 42.5 per cent, compared to Lam’s 30 per cent and Woo’s 11.5 per cent.

The poll also asked respondents which candidate they disliked the most. Lam came first with 44.6 per cent of respondents opposing her. Woo took the second place at 23 per cent, while Tsang faced the least opposition, at 8.4 per cent.

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Stand News, via Facebook.

Hong Kong Research Association

Meanwhile, polling organisation Hong Kong Research Association said Lam led in its poll conducted last week, with support from 40 per cent of over 1,300 respondents. Tsang received 37 per cent support, while Woo was favoured by 12 per cent of respondents.

Little information about the association is publicly available, but local media previously reported that it might have links with pro-Beijing figures. The association was formerly headed by So Chi-ki, a member of China’s top political advisory body and advocate of national education courses in local schools.

Explainer: Why Hong Kong’s leadership race is neither free, fair, nor representative

The small-circle chief executive election takes place on March 26.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.