So you have read many columns and analysis about Thailand, and you think the country is deeply divided between the wealthy monarchist yellows, and the poor rural reds ? Think again.
The Asia Foundation today released the findings of its second national survey of 1,500 Thai citizens. 2010 National Survey of the Thai Electorate: Exploring National Consensus and Color Polarization is one of the most rigorous and comprehensive public perception surveys conducted since the tumultuous political events of April-May 2010. The survey explores the depth of color divisions in contemporary Thailand; key topics covered include the state of democracy in Thailand, elections, conflict and security, and options for reconciliation.
Designed and managed by the Foundation’s office in Thailand, the survey presents findings from in-person interviews with a broad and nationally representative sample of 1,500 Thai citizens conducted between September 17 and October 23, 2010.
The survey results suggest citizens are not as politically divided as politicians, analysts, and the media frequently suggest. In reality, the mainstream Thai population (76%) professed no color attachment to either Yellow or Red movements. The data also reveals that there was considerable internal diversity or factionalism within these movements, with no consensus in citizen understanding of the primary objectives of the Yellow and Red movements.
Overall, the mood of the nation was slightly less pessimistic than it was in 2009. The survey reveals that 54% of Thai citizens in 2010 believed the country was moving in the wrong direction, down slightly from 58% in 2009. While 60% of respondents had cited the poor economy as the biggest problem facing Thailand in 2009, this perception decreased significantly to only 35% in 2010. Reflecting changes in the mood of Thai citizens between 2009 and the political turmoil that marked 2010, political conflict moved up the list of critical problems, cited by 42% of respondents versus 24% in 2009.
Decentralization was also a key focus of the survey. A solid majority of 61% believed that decentralization would improve governance and reduce tensions. A strong majority of respondents (62%) also believed that decentralization might reduce the Red-Yellow conflict. Between 2009 and 2010 there was a significant increase (from 48% to 58%) in the percentage of respondents who thought that decentralization would help resolve the long-term conflict in the three southern border provinces.
The 2010 National Survey of the Thai Electorate builds on the original national survey conducted in 2009 that explored citizen views on national reconciliation and political reform, while also adapting the survey to capture opinions relevant to the political events in 2010.
The Foundation develops sophisticated empirical surveys for use across Asia in order to pinpoint citizen concerns and needs, to gauge public support for development initiatives, and to inform important policy debate and Foundation program design and refinement.
The survey can be accessed in its entirety here. The report is also available in Thai.