The popularity of Hong Kong’s leader has continued to “hover” around the midpoint of an approval scale, a pollster has found.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) released the latest monthly popularity figures of Chief Executive John Lee and his administration on Thursday. According to the results of a recent random telephone survey, Lee scored 52.6 marks – up 1.9 from last month – out of 100 but continued to “hover around the 50-mark line,” while public satisfaction in the government stood at net 7 percentage points.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute
The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

PORI interviewed 1,001 adult Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents between September 7 and 19. Among the respondents, 13 per cent gave Lee zero marks.

His latest approval rate was 55 per cent, the highest since he took office last July after running as the sole candidate for the job, and his disapproval rate was 31 per cent, giving him a net popularity of plus 24 percentage points.

The Hong Kong government’s latest satisfaction rate was 44 per cent, whereas dissatisfaction stood at 38 per cent, resulting in a net satisfaction of plus 7 percentage points.

Among the principal government officials, Chief Secretary Eric Chan had a support rating of 47.1 marks, Financial Secretary Paul Chan 54.1 marks, and Secretary for Justice Paul Lam 46 marks. Only Lam’s net popularity has significantly increased compared to three months ago – by 8 percentage points.

Speaking to reporters before presenting the results on Thursday, Robert Chung, president and CEO of PORI, revealed the institute’s plan to release what he called the “Public Sentiment Index v2.0 analysis series.” It would include thematic reports on “activeness in civil society,” “age or generation,” and “ethnic identity,” Chung said in Cantonese.

Robert Chung, the president and chief executive officer of PORI. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

PORI “does not intend to conduct any polls or analysis on the District Council election,” Chung said, unless it were commissioned to by a third party.

The overhauled race scheduled for December 10 will be the first since Hong Kong revised how the councils were formed and their composition to ensure only “patriots” could run. The number of directly elected seats was also dramatically reduced, from 452 in 2019 to 88 this year.

Before the last District Council election in 2019, PORI collaborated with scholars to collect opinions on voters’ choices, as well as suggestions to resolve the political crisis brought by the 2019 protests and unrest.

Chung’s announcement came after PORI said in June it would curb about a quarter of its usual survey questions and make private the results of some others, with those relating to the Tiananmen crackdown, people’s sense of identity and how the public rated the police among the affected topics.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.