Poll of pre­miers ‘not a pop­u­lar­ity con­test’

KPI slams me­dia for cov­er­age of re­sults


Claim­ing that ousted premier Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra had a higher approval rating than Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha based on a sur­vey by King Pra­jad­hipok’s In­sti­tute (KPI) shows a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the poll, said the in­sti­tute’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Wuthis­arn Tan­chai.

Mr Wuthis­arn said the sur­vey has been con­ducted an­nu­ally since 2002 — cov­er­ing the tenures of six na­tional lead­ers — to see how sat­is­fied peo­ple were with pub­lic ser­vices pro­vided by state agen­cies.

But the poll has noth­ing to do with the pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings of the former and in­cum­bent prime min­is­ters, he in­sisted.

Gen Prayut ap­peared an­noyed by the re­sults of the poll af­ter it gained me­dia ex­po­sure ear­lier this week, sug­gest­ing Mr Thaksin was the more pop­u­lar leader.

The former tele­coms ty­coon who is now liv­ing in self-ex­ile won an approval rating of 93% in 2003 but this slid to 77% in 2006 when his gov­ern­ment was ac­cused of abuses of power, trig­ger­ing the coup that top­pled it, ac­cord­ing to the me­dia’s pre­sen­ta­tion of the KPI poll.

Gen Prayut re­port­edly re­ceived an 87.5% approval rating in 2015, one year af­ter he came to power af­ter stag­ing a coup. It dropped to 84.6% last year, the poll showed.

Mr Wuthis­arn said this was an un­fair com­par­i­son to make.

“The in­sti­tute did not set out to con­duct a pop­u­lar­ity con­test be­tween the six prime min­is­ters. The com­par­i­son was the re­sult of a mis­un­der­stand­ing,” he said.

He said answers given by the in­sti­tute at a re­cent press con­fer­ence were taken out of con­text.

The sur­vey also quizzed peo­ple to find out how sat­is­fied they were with pub­lic ser­vices, he said. Some 33,420 re­sponded to give it the high­est level of ac­cu­racy, he added.

The KPI pro­duces the an­nual sur­vey with the in­ten­tion of show­ing what peo­ple think about the stan­dard of pub­lic ser­vices be­ing de­liv­ered by state agen­cies, Mr Wuthis­arn said, adding that the find­ings are sup­posed to be used to help im­prove these ser­vices.

Mr Wuthis­arn said it was re­gret­table they had been framed in terms of a pop­u­lar­ity con­text.

“A prob­lem from the com­par­i­son has man­i­fested it­self,” he said, blam­ing the me­dia for spread­ing the wrong in­for­ma­tion.

The me­dia should study the ob­jec­tives of the sur­veys and present the facts, not opin­ions, he added.

“The me­dia must fully com­pre­hend the con­text and the lis­ten to the facts,” he said, claim­ing that me­dia out­lets of­ten find ways to ed­i­to­ri­alise their cov­er­age of sur­veys.

Mr Wuthis­arn also down­played com­ments by former Na­tional Re­form Steer­ing Assem­bly mem­ber Seri Suwan­na­panont that the in­sti­tute’s sur­veys were so­cially di­vi­sive.

Gen Prayut re­sponded emo­tion­ally to ques­tions from the me­dia on Wed­nes­day about the poll re­sults, which ap­peared to show Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in 2006, rank­ing as the most pop­u­lar prime min­is­ter over the past 15 years.

The sur­vey of 33,420 peo­ple was con­ducted na­tion­wide from April 24 to May 15 to mark the 19th an­niver­sary of the in­sti­tute.

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