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The Hong Kong Institute of Education
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Hong Kong People Think that Free Speech
is More Important than Democracy, Survey Finds
2013-05-08

In a recent survey completed by The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd), about half of the respondents prioritised maintaining order over democracy (i.e. giving people more say in important political decisions), while about one third thought the opposite. In addition, about 41% of respondents prioritised protecting freedom of speech over maintaining order, with 46% taking the opposite view. The principal investigator of the study concludes that the government and advocates of “Occupy Central” must understand public attitudes about these core values with a view to enhancing governance and winning support from the general public.

The Department of Asian and Policy Studies at HKIEd commissioned the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong to conduct the telephone poll between 26 and 28 March 2013. A total of 1,032 local people aged 18 or above responded. The survey made reference to the post-materialism question developed by Ronald Inglehart, a sociologist and political scientist, to examine attitudes towards democracy, freedom and maintaining order. 
 

Maintaining order > Giving people more say in important political decisions (democracy)

49.8%

Giving people more say in important political decisions (democracy) > Maintaining order

33.7%

Maintaining order > Protecting freedom of speech (freedom of speech)

45.6%

Protecting freedom of speech (freedom of speech) > Maintaining order

41.0%

Sex

Female

Male

Maintaining order > Democracy

50.9%

48.5%

Democracy  > Maintaining order

31.0%

37.0%

Maintaining order  > Freedom of speech *

48.4%

42.1%

Freedom of speech > Maintaining order

44.0%

38.4%

Age

18-29

30-49

50+

Maintaining order > Democracy **

35.1%

52.4%

53.7%

Democracy > Maintaining order **

46.4%

33.4%

28.9%

Maintaining order > Freedom of speech**

33.9%

46.9%

49.2%

Freedom of speech > Maintaining order

43.5%

40.8%

40.2%

Educational level

Primary or below

Secondary

Post-secondary

and above

Maintaining order > Democracy

53.5%

50.6%

45.3%

Democracy > Maintaining order **

26.2%

34.8%

39.1%

Maintaining order > Freedom of speech*

51.9%

44.2%

41.5%

Freedom of speech > Maintaining order**

30.9%

41.9%

49.1%

Employment status

Working Full-time

Retirees and Housewives

Maintaining order > Democracy

50.6%

54.9%

Democracy > Maintaining order *

34.5%

26.8%

Maintaining order > Freedom of speech

45.6%

49.7%

Freedom of speech > Maintaining order

41.2%

38.4%

Notes:  Response rate=68.0% (** p <0.01 * p <0.05)

Commenting the survey, Professor Chou Kee-lee, Associate Head of the Department of Asian and Policy Studies at HKIEd said that results reveal that compared with maintaining order, Hong Kong people think that freedom of speech is more important than democracy. He added that “the percentage of respondents who prioritise maintaining order over democracy (49.8%) is statistically higher than the portion of respondents who believe that democracy is more important than maintaining order (33.7%).”

“On the other hand, there is no statistical significant difference between the percentage of respondents who agreed that maintaining order is more important than freedom of speech (45.6%) and those who agreed that freedom of speech is more important than maintaining order (41.0%),” he added.

The male, younger, more highly educated, and full-time employed respondents were more likely to believe that democracy is more important than maintaining order, but only those with higher education were more likely to agree that freedom of speech is more important than maintaining order. In addition, in all age groups (except those aged 19 and 29), both sexes, and all educational and employment status groups, the percentage of respondents who agreed that freedom of speech is more important than maintaining order is higher than or similar to that of those who agreed that democracy is more important than maintaining order. “The results indicate that freedom of speech is a more popular core value than democracy”, added Professor Chou.

“Hong Kong is a diversified society constituted by people from different backgrounds. It is natural to have them perceiving things and holding views differently. By providing a systematic analysis of public attitudes towards different ideologies by age, education attainment and employment status, we hope to provide a new angle for society, civic groups and policy makers to make reference when enhancing the governance and winning over public support”, concluded Professor Chou.
 

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For media enquiries, please contact Professor Chou Kee-Lee Department of Asian and Policy Studies at HKIEd at 2948 7474 or 6906-3909.