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  • Taking Both Sides into Consideration

Taking Both Sides into Consideration

Ambivalence in Public Opinion on Political Reform in Hong Kong

Francis L. F. Lee, Joseph M. Chan

English , 2007/01 HKIAPS, Occasional Paper Series Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, CUHK

Tags: Hong Kong Studies, Politics

215 x 140 mm , 46pp ISBN / ISSN : 978-962-441-186-7

  • US$3.00

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Many opinion polls have shown that the majority of Hong Kong citizens support the institutionalization of direct elections for the Chief Executive as soon as possible, but that there are also many citizens who support the SAR government's arguably conservative political reform bill introduced in late 2005. Does this represent a case of self-contradiction among the citizenry? Or should we adopt a different perspective to understand the complexities of public opinion? This study attempts to analyse and understand public opinions towards democratic reform through the concept of attitudinal ambivalence. In recent years, much research on political psychology has illustrated that many citizens hold simultaneously conflicting views and sentiments on complicated social and political matters. They may even experience subjective feelings of internal conflict. This study shows that many Hong Kong people also demonstrate objective and subjective ambivalence on the issue of democratic reform. Regarding the reform bill put forward in late 2005, many citizens did not one-sidedly support or oppose the reform bill, and some even felt that it was difficult to make an overall judgement on the matter. However, ambivalence is not the result of a lack of information and judgement. On the contrary, people who were more active in communicating politically were more likely to feel ambivalent. At the same time, an analysis of the data shows that ambivalence will reduce the extremeness of attitudes, as well as the impact of the relevant attitude on political behaviour. These findings are consistent with research in the US. Nevertheless, ambivalence did not reduce people's intentions to engage in political participation. In fact, those who had participated in pro-democracy demonstrations exhibited higher levels of ambivalence than non-participants. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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