Public support for the Occupy movement has grown since the campaign began, and it continues to divide residents, a Chinese University survey has found.
Support for the movement was particularly significant among young people, pan-democrats and moderates. Pollsters said they believed that the police force’s controversial handling of protesters – including using tear gas and batons – was a catalyst.
Nearly 38 per cent of respondents said they supported the Occupy movement, which seeks to have chief executive candidates in 2017 run without vetting by Beijing. More than 35 per cent said they did not support the Occupy protests.
The poll, conducted between October 8 and 15, questioned 802 Hongkongers aged 15 and above by phone.
The level of support grew 6.7 percentage points from a poll a month earlier, and opposition shrank by 10.8 percentage points. The university conducted the earlier survey between September 10 and 17, just days before the class boycott started.
Professor Francis Lee Lap-fung, one of the pollsters with Chinese University’s school of journalism and communication, said: “Mathematically speaking, neither side has really represented the majority.”
Lee said the police force’s tactics to control protesters – including allegations that protesters were beaten – might have triggered the surge in public support for the Occupy movement.
The poll found that 42.2 per cent of respondents considered the police’s handling of conflicts between Occupy supporters and opponents to be inappropriate, compared with 26.7 per cent who found the methods appropriate.
Nearly 54 per cent said it was inappropriate to use tear gas against protesters on September 28. Twenty-two per cent said it was appropriate.
Among respondents aged 15 to 24, support for the movementrose from 46.7 per cent to 62.1 per cent. Among pan-democrats and moderates, the support increased from 52.3 per cent to 66.3 per cent, and from 18.5 per cent to 26.6 per cent respectively.
Asked if they trusted the police force, 44 per cent said they still did, while 28.6 per cent respondents said they did not.
The survey had a sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.