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.