Public policy think tank Civic Exchange today released a public opinion survey entitled “Less Talk, More Action”. The survey shows that one in four people are considering emigration in response to the public health threats of Hong Kong’s air pollution, up from one in five in December 2008, when a similar survey was conducted. All groups, including professional drivers, who were surveyed as a specific group for the first time, identified roadside pollution, freeways, tunnels, and street canyons as the four sources that were most impactful to their health.
“Despite the March sandstorm, the public understands clearly that the high daily concentrations of roadside pollution, poses the greatest threat to their health, and many are thinking hard about leaving,” said Christine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Exchange. The survey, which was funded by ADM Capital Foundation, highlighted seven key findings, also showed that while people in general are discussing air slightly less than in 2008, the best educated and richest groups in the community are talking the most, especially with their bosses.
“While conversation levels remain high, it is those who can vote with their feet – by leaving – that remain the most vocal. They leave behind the elderly and young and the less affluent, including many professional drivers, who suffer largely in silence because the articulate and influential have left,” noted Professor Michael DeGolyer of The Hong Kong Transition Project, Hong Kong Baptist University, who conducted the survey for Civic Exchange.
While most people believe that the government considers their health and children’s health most when setting air pollution policy, and generally trust the information on air pollution that the government provides, many people do not trust the government to set and enforce air pollution standards.
“We now have evidence that the government’s failure to release the new Air Quality Objectives, and its inability to introduce meaningful measures to tackle roadside emissions is eroding public trust. Simply stated, the public’s message, is: ‘we trust what you tell us about air pollution, but not what you’re actually doing about it, so we want to get out more than ever’,” added Ms Loh.
Civic Exchange also pointed to two global surveys that provide independent support for these findings:
• A November 2009 Gallup survey assessing the potential net migration from 135 countries, rated Hong Kong at -15% – the same as Iraq, while Singapore, which topped the list, rated +260%.
• In April 2010 another Gallup survey found that 70% of Hong Kong people – more than anywhere else on the planet – were dissatisfied with air quality.
Commenting on the findings Professor DeGolyer noted that Civic Exchange surveys clearly identified a major reason why people are thinking about leaving Hong Kong. Conversely the Gallup migration survey provides independent support for the surprisingly high numbers of people planning to leave town identified by Civic Exchange’s 2008 and 2010 surveys.
He also noted that nearly half of professional drivers were concerned about the maintenance and safety of their vehicles. “When drivers are about as concerned about the air they breathe as about the safety of the cars and buses they drive, then you know they take both issues seriously, and that both issues should also concern the public.”
The survey included 600 randomly selected members of the public aged 18 and over, and 415 randomly selected professional drivers1 Thirty of the respondents from the general public sample happened to be professional drivers, and their responses were counted in both samples. In total, 985 people were interviewed.