Guangzhou Public Opinion Poll Showing Record Dissatisfaction Is Deleted from WeChat

A post about a Guangzhou public opinion poll showing the largest drop in public satisfaction in 30 years has been deleted after being published by the WeChat account of He Wenwei, a Guangzhou-based business consultant who blogs about financial, legal, and current-events topics. The post, archived by CDT editors, reveals that poll respondents expressed dissatisfaction in a number of areas, including the state of the private economy, the outlook for employment, and their current incomes. Such negative poll results are politically sensitive, given the many economic and fiscal challenges confronting China in the post-zero-COVID policy era: downturns in the stock and property markets, high youth unemployment, deflationary pressure, stagnant or declining wages, and increasingly cash-strapped local governments.

There has been much debate about the methodology and accuracy of public opinion polls conducted in China. In addition to numerous polls conducted by Chinese academic institutions and private or public think-tanks, some of the most notable international polls are the PEW Global Attitudes Survey, Harvard University’s Ash Center poll, and a more recent USC/Stanford poll that sought to more accurately measure Xi Jinping’s popularity. There are also the much less reputable, topic-based polls conducted by state media outlets such as Global Times, and “rigged polls” conducted by local governments to advance their own ends.

The poll quoted in the deleted WeChat post is notable for its focus on the domestic economy, employment, and livelihood issues. A survey of residents in Guangzhou, it was conducted in late 2023 by the Canton Public Opinion Research Center. (Established as a private non-profit in 1988, the center was China’s first non-governmental public opinion research organization.) The Guangzhou poll’s main conclusions are summarized and translated below:

Conclusion 1: Public satisfaction with the state of the economy continued to fall after 2022’s sharp decline, dropping to the lowest level since 2015

Highlight: In the 46 polls we have conducted since 1990, never before has there been such a marked decline in 20 out of 26 indicators.

Conclusion 2: Assessments of employment and income continue to decline

  1. Employment: Only 36% of residents expressed satisfaction with employment prospects, the lowest figure since 2017. Among respondents who are currently employed, 71% believe that it will be difficult or relatively difficult to find a job in 2023.
  1. Income: Only 31% of residents were satisfied with their income, the lowest figure since 2017. For the first time, income dissatisfaction exceeded 20%, with one out of every five respondents expressing dissatisfaction with their income.

Conclusion 3: Young people, people with lower incomes, and people with lower levels of education are highly dissatisfied

  1. Among low-income people, the satisfaction rate dropped from 32% to 20%, and dissatisfaction rose from 19% to 28%, which constitutes a qualitative shift from positive to negative.
  2. Among people with lower levels of education (junior high school and below), the satisfaction rate was 30% and the dissatisfaction rate was 25%, with one out of every four people expressing dissatisfaction.
  3. Among young people (from 26-30 years old), the satisfaction rate dropped from 55% to 36%, and the dissatisfaction rate rose from 9% to 22%, making this the most dissatisfied cohort among all age groups.

[Note that these are the three “core target groups” for stability maintenance.]

Conclusion 4: Satisfaction with “Private Enterprise Development” has hit a record low

[…] Conclusion 5: The majority of citizens do not expect their incomes to rise, and private enterprises exhibit little confidence in their economic prospects for 2024

Given that 70% of citizens do not expect their incomes to rise, the transmission effects of monetary and fiscal policies will inevitably be overwhelmed by lack of public confidence. [Chinese]

On the topic of how this dissatisfaction might express itself more broadly, a recent report by Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis forecasts that a slowing Chinese economy will likely drive growing public discontent

The combination of slowing economic growth and erosion of trust could heighten public discontent and even drive new protests in 2024. Events of nationwide significance — such as the death in late 2023 of former premier Li Keqiang — have the potential to become flashpoints for broader public and elite dissatisfaction. [Source]


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