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Cablegate: Poll Shows Power of Having a Concrete Party Message

VZCZCXRO6349
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0920/01 3491003
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151003Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1454
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCGEVC/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0188

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000920

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KJUS SOCI CB
SUBJECT: POLL SHOWS POWER OF HAVING A CONCRETE PARTY MESSAGE

REF: PHNOM PENH 469

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 11, the International Republican
Institute (IRI) presented the results of its August 2009 Cambodian
Public Opinion survey. The USAID-funded survey found solid public
confidence in the general direction of the country and the ruling
Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Questions about confidence in the
various political parties showed the effectiveness of the CPP's
disciplined party branding and the issues faced by the opposition
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Survey respondents indicated that they
wanted to see more government development of transportation systems
and more efforts to fight crime. The U.S. topped the list of
favorably-viewed countries among general respondents, and placed
second behind Malaysia among Cham Muslim respondents. The polling
revealed a high public awareness of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and the
Duch case. END SUMMARY.

CAPTURING THE NATIONAL MOOD
---------------------------

2. (SBU) On December 11, IRI presented to the Ambassador and Country
Team the results of its sixth Cambodian Public Opinion Survey,
conducted in August 2009. The USAID-funded poll, which is the only
one of its kind in Cambodia, sought to capture average citizens'
views on issues such as the direction of the country, political
parties, and government services. Cambodian research institution
Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) conducted face-to-face interviews
across 24 provinces with a representative sample size of 1,600,
including 400 Muslim Cambodians, who were asked additional
questions. IRI plans to announce the general results of the survey
to the public, and will limit party-specific results to the
political parties themselves. Results regarding hypothetical
election results will not be disclosed beyond the USG and IRI.

TRENDS: FAITH IN THE CPP, DIRECTION OF COUNTRY
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) Despite a slight dip from the last poll in November 2008,
the majority of survey respondents (79%) felt that the country was
headed in the right direction, demonstrating the CPP's resilience in
the face of the global economic crisis. As in past surveys, when
asked in an open-ended fashion why the country was headed in the
right direction, respondents credited the construction of
infrastructure such as roads and schools. Respondents who said the
country was headed in the wrong direction cited corruption and
poverty at the top of the list. Prime Minister Hun Sen
overwhelmingly received credit for positive developments in the
country, while about a third of respondents who said the country was
headed in the wrong direction blamed him personally for negative
developments.

4. (SBU) Overall, public confidence in Hun Sen rose to a high of
93%, while confidence in Sam Rainsy as a political leader fell
slightly to 56%. Human Rights Party (HRP) leader Kem Sokha seemed
to have increased his visibility since the last survey, as the
numbers of both respondents who had positive and negative views of
him rose over the past year to 42% positive and 39% negative.
(NOTE: CPP-controlled media have released multiple stories on Kem
Sokha, often with a negative slant. END NOTE.) Confidence in the
national and commune governments remained strong at 86% and 83%,
respectively, as did confidence in civil society at 87%.

5. (SBU) The survey respondents displayed a streak of optimism on
the economy, with 72% predicting that their incomes would remain
stable or increase over the next year. This positive outlook was
highest in Phnom Penh and the southeastern provinces bordering
Vietnam, and was lowest in the northwest.

POLITICAL PARTIES: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MESSAGE
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) Polling on the political parties showed growing support for
the CPP. In a scenario in which national elections were held today,
66% of respondents chose the CPP, 15% the SRP, 8% the HRP, and 6%
the two royalist parties combined. In a second scenario where the
SRP and HRP merged, 57% of respondents remained loyal to the CPP,
33% chose the SRP/HRP hybrid, and 4% selected one of the royalist
parties. (NOTE: The polling did not take into account the potential
impact of a SRP/HRP hybrid party having to campaign under a new
name. END NOTE.) Although the hypothetical SRP/HRP party increased
its total share of votes, it failed to generate much interest from
young voters aged 18-24, 70% of whom continued to support the CPP.
In both scenarios, the royalist parties fared the worst, dropping to
zero National Assembly seats.


PHNOM PENH 00000920 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) In a series of open-ended questions about party branding,
the CPP's disciplined messaging shone through. Survey answers
demonstrated strong policy and national identity associations with
the CPP, such as infrastructure development, economic growth, and
the country's liberation from the Khmer Rouge in 1979 topping the
list. When asked what respondents thought of in relation to the
SRP, branding issues were apparent with answers ranging from "don't
know" to "do nothing", "opposition party", and "candle as its logo".
In contrast, although a majority of respondents were also
unfamiliar with the HRP, those that were familiar associated
concrete policy issues with the party, such as human rights
protection, seeking justice for workers and the poor, and resolving
land conflicts.

GOVERNMENT SERVICES: KEEP US CONNECTED, SAFE
---------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Survey respondents overwhelmingly said that they wanted to
see political parties focus more on improving government services
and fighting corruption, rather than highlighting the leaders and
histories of their parties or the history of prior regimes. The
polling indicated average to low satisfaction with government
services such as education, transportation systems, security, health
care, and electricity. Respondents wanted to see more improvement
in the areas in which they were the most satisfied, such as
transportation and security, as they had already seen concrete gains
and appeared to value these services.

U.S. FAVORABLY VIEWED, THAILAND NOT AS MUCH
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The U.S. topped the list of favorably-viewed countries,
with 89% of respondents reporting either somewhat or very favorable
views. Japan, France, the U.K., and China trailed slightly behind.
Among Muslim respondents, the U.S. maintained its high ratings,
falling only into second place behind Malaysia. Thailand's
unfavorable rating was high in both groups, jumping from around 35%
in November 2008 to 71% in August 2009 among general respondents.
Attitudes towards Vietnam conversely improved, with about half of
respondents expressing favorable views.

ISLAM IN CAMBODIA
-----------------

10. (SBU) Muslim respondents, the majority of whom identified
themselves as Cham, overwhelmingly (99%) reported to be somewhat or
very satisfied with the government's relationship with the Muslim
community. 82% felt that Islam agrees with democracy, with 13%
responding that it neither agrees nor disagrees with democracy.
Over half of the Muslim respondents indicated that the conflict in
southern Thailand was important to them.

KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL PROVIDING JUSTICE SLOWLY
---------------------------------------------

11. (SBU) The polling revealed a high public awareness of the Khmer
Rouge Tribunal and the Duch case. Despite frustration with the pace
of Duch's trial, 70% of survey respondents said that they felt the
trial of Khmer Rouge leaders provided justice.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) The IRI poll reinforced some of the trends we've seen
emerging with the political parties over the past year. The CPP,
aside from having the largest platform from which to promote itself,
has strengthened its support by producing tangible development and
security results. Despite statements earlier this year that the
opposition would seek ways to work more constructively with the
government (Reftel), Sam Rainsy and his party's distracting
maneuvers have come at the expense of a solid base, clear message,
and distinguishable party brand. If the SRP and HRP successfully
merge for the 2013 elections, they will have to better emulate the
CPP's disciplined party branding if they hope to gain or maintain
influence, especially if they merge under a new name. If they
don't, they may find themselves going the way of the royalist
parties, who according to the poll and our observations, don't have
much of a presence, or a future.

RODLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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