Only around 50 per cent of Hongkongers are inclined to vote in next month’s “patriots only” legislative election, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) has found – a record low since similar questionnaires were first conducted in 1991.

PORI on Tuesday released results from the Legislative Council (LegCo) election survey, which interviewed 838 Cantonese-speaking registered voters in Hong Kong over the phone between last Monday and Thursday.

2021 Legislative Council election
Publicity materials for the 2021 Legislative Council Election. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Among the respondents, 34 per cent said they “definitely” will cast a ballot in the election scheduled on December 19, Hong Kong’s first general polls since Beijing ordered sweeping electoral amendments to ensure only “patriots” rule the city.

Seventeen per cent said they “probably” will vote, while 33 per cent said they will not take part in the polling. The rest said they have not decided yet or they did not know.

The tendency to vote in the upcoming LegCo election was the lowest since PORI began similar surveys in 1991, which tracked electors’ propensity to vote in the legislative race, starting from around a month before election day.

PORI election survey
Photo: PORI.

The figure released on Tuesday – with 52 per cent of voters interviewed indicating they will vote in the polls that are a month away – marked a significant decrease from 2016, when more than 80 per cent of respondents said they would cast their ballot.

The PORI questionnaire also found that 60 per cent of the respondents did not know the candidates who are running in their geographical constituencies, while the rest said they know at least one.

Only 23 per cent of the people PORI interviewed said they knew, and could name, the geographical constituency they belong to. Forty per cent said they did not know or were not sure.

PORI election survey
Photo: PORI.

Members of the public will only directly elect 20 lawmakers out of the 90 legislative seats. The rest will be selected by representatives from special interest groups such as the tourism, accounting and medical sectors – and the Election Committee, which is also filled with “patriots.”

Beijing-backed media attack

PORI, led by veteran pollster Robert Chung, came under fire from Beijing-backed newspaper Ta Kung Pao, which claimed the institute’s surveys have “incited and misled” citizens. The report published on Wednesday cited Chung as saying PORI would still conduct telephone interviews and online surveys and will study public opinion on issues including blank ballots.

Robert Chung PORI
Robert Chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Ta Kung Pao alleged that such studies could “abet” and “prompt” people who intend to “disrupt Hong Kong.”

“The Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation has issued a statement to stress that the so-called ‘public opinion polls’ by PORI are intended to mislead the general public, and act as a shot in the arm for those who which to disrupt the election,” the news report read.

The electoral overhaul in May criminalised behaviour urging other people to cast a blank or an void vote in an election in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has evaded questions on whether the act of submitting protest ballots itself is legal or not.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.