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2017 State of the Nation Survey
Fissure Point Identified at 39 Years Old

The subtle shift in public opinion with 39 years of age as a point of demarcation reflects the reality of divides and frictions developing between the generations on issues large and small. How should Taiwan proceed in the face of this generational divide?

Photos: cw

Now that 2016 has come and gone, what are the most memorable legacies from this year in Taiwan’s history?

Other than the presidential election resulting in the third peaceful transition of ruling parties in the country’s history, 2016 was full of setbacks and conflicts. Still, amidst constant tensions running through society, the 2017 CommonWealth State of the Nation Survey found that, despite sharing similar views on the country’s development, a clear break has emerged in how two different generations envision their nation.

This year’s State of the Nation Survey uses cross-analysis of popular opinion on three aspects, including the country’s future, generational differences, and government performance. With respect to the outlook for the nation and government performance, pessimism remains in many areas following the presidential election in spite of a trend toward growing confidence on the prospects for the future. Meanwhile, clear divides have emerged between generations in attitude and outlook, with 39 years of age in particular marking a major demarcation point in the population.

Continued Pessimism

With respect to their outlook for the country, the people remain extremely uncertain about the economic outlook, with the majority dubious about Taiwan’s future development. When asked “are you satisfied with Taiwan’s current economic performance?”, 74.8 percent expressed dissatisfaction, compared to just 18.6 percent noting satisfaction. Moreover, these trends held constant across both sexes and different generations (Table 1).

Upon being asked, “Generally speaking, are you optimistic or pessimistic about Taiwan’s future development,” pessimists (54.2 percent) outnumbered optimists (39.1 percent) by a 15 percent margin (Table 2). Compared with the same period of President Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, when optimists occupied a similar 39.8 percent, the number of pessimists has grown considerably.

Generationally speaking, the 20- to 29-year-old age group is the most optimistic, with nearly 54 percent responding that they are very optimistic or somewhat optimistic. In contrast, pessimism clouded the 40-49 age group’s outlook at 66 percent, the highest among all age groups.

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