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Asia Foundation Releases Profile of the Protestors in Bangkok

Inside Look at Political Divisions in Thailand

Bangkok and San Francisco, December 19, 2013 — The Asia Foundation in Thailand today released a report, Profile of the Protestors, which presents the findings of a short survey of pro- and anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok conducted on November 30, 2013.

The Foundation conducted a rapid perception survey as mass demonstrations by the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and counter-demonstrations by the pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD or Red Shirt) movement began to heat up in Bangkok in late November. The aim of the survey is two-fold: 1) to learn about the demographic composition of the respective gatherings and 2) to probe the perspectives of political activists on democracy and political issues that were explored in the Foundation’s 2010 and 2009 national surveys, as well as topical questions related to the current tensions.

The survey report presents findings from a sample of 315 respondents. The pro- and anti-government respondents were asked 24 questions in total, nine of which explored demographic profile. It should be noted that the survey findings represent the extremes of public sentiment, since the vast majority of crowds in the two different gatherings consisted of people supporting their respective political causes. While all possible steps were taken within the parameters of available time to enhance the rigor of the survey, the sample size achieved was modest and the margin of error in any finding commensurately large at approximately 8 percent at a confidence level of 95 percent.

Despite the limitations of the sample size and methodology, the findings of the rapid survey will contribute to an enhanced understanding of the demographics and perspectives of the political activists. While significant differences between the two respondent groups were expected and found, some interesting similarities were also revealed. Highlights of the survey findings include:

  • Demographics. The range of ages represented within the respective respondent groups is similar, with the average age of 46 for red shirt respondents and 43 for PDRC respondents. With just 12 percent of the total respondents aged 25 or younger, it appears that neither group represents a youth or student movement. A significant difference in education levels was observed between the two respondent groups, with 68 percent of PDRC respondents holding bachelor or advanced degrees, while the comparable figure for red shirt respondents is just 27 percent. Fifty-seven percent of PDRC respondents are from Bangkok versus 32 percent for red shirts, while 68 percent of red shirt respondents are from outside Bangkok versus 44 percent for PDRC.
  • Organization of the Rally. PDRC respondents were more likely than red shirt counterparts to attend rallies alone, while red shirt respondents were significantly more likely than PDRC respondents to attend as part of a larger organized group. The majority of respondents in both groups attended rallies in the company of smaller groups of friends.
  • Motivating Factors. Members of the two respondent groups cited different motivating factors in attending their respective rally events. Almost 80 percent of red shirt respondents were motivated by the urge to protect the elected government and democracy. Forty-eight percent of PDRC respondents were motivated by a desire to end Shinawatra family involvement in politics, with additional factors of importance including protecting the monarchy and stopping the blanket amnesty bill. Just 4 percent of red shirt demonstrators indicated that they were motivated by support for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s return to Thailand and the protection of his family.
  • Satisfaction with Democracy in Thailand. Although red shirt respondents are more satisfied with democracy in Thailand than their PDRC counterparts (43 percent red shirts versus 18 percent PDRC), majorities of both groups remain unsatisfied.
  • Prospective Constitutional Change. Seventy-nine percent of respondents support some form of constitutional change. Seventy percent of red shirt respondents would like to draft a new constitution or return to the 1997 Constitution. In contrast, PDRC respondents support the 2007 Constitution, with 70 percent disposed to either amend it or leave it as is.
  • Resolving Political Tensions. There is no consensus and very little overlap between the two respondent groups in their respective views of the actions to be taken to resolve political tensions. Fifty percent of red shirt respondents feel that anti-government protesters should accept the electoral mandate of the present government and abandon their protest. In contrast, 44 percent of PDRC respondents believe that the elected government should be replaced with a non-elected “People’s Council.”

The Asia Foundation conducts national public perception surveys in Thailand and other countries as part of its development programming and to inform policy debate. Download the survey here.

Read more about the Foundation’s programs in Thailand. For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room. 

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