Income and Home Ownership Matters? What Affects Voters’ Decision in LegCo 2018 By-Election

Voters from areas with medium income and higher home ownership rate appeared to be more likely to support the pan-democracy camp, analysis of 2018 Legislative Council by-election results shows.

The pattern is found by comparing the vote counts for pan-democracy and pro-Beijing candidates in each polling station in the by-election with the demographic statistics of that area from the 2016 by-census.

Overview of the political support in different areas in the 2018 LegCo by-election


The more reddish an area is, the more pro-Beijing supporters it has. The more bluish an area is, the more pro-democracy supporters it has.
*(The percentage difference is calculated by votes for pro-Beijing candidate minus votes for pro-democracy candidate.)
**(Grey areas represent districts without no polling station in the by-election. Their votes are counted into neighbouring districts instead.)

The by-election was held on March 11, 2018 in three LegCo constituencies—Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West and New Territories East—after three lawmakers had been disqualified over the oath-taking controversy in 2017.

Contrary to the more sophisticated proportional representation system used in main elections, the candidate who got the most votes would win in the by-election since there was only one vacant seat in each constituency. Because of that, the two main political camps—pan-democracy and pro-Beijing—each only sent one candidate in each constituency.

Pro-Beijing candidate Vincent Cheng won in Kowloon West eventually, while Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan from the pan-democracy camp took the seats of Hong Kong Island and New Territories East respectively.

There are different views on what factors would affect one’s political preference. An article from South China Morning Post, for example, attributed the victory of Au in Hong Kong Island to the “loyalty” from middle class living in large-scale private residential estates such as Tai Koo Shing and South Horizon.

Monthly median income in areas involved in the 2018 LegCo by-election

The middle class in other parts of Hong Kong seems to have similar preference. For instance, the votes for the pan-democracy candidate from Olympian City, a private estates in Kowloon West, was 10% more than that for the pro-Beijing candidate, a level comparable to that of Tai Koo Shing.

The line of divide seems to be at HK$40,000. When a district has a monthly median income above that, it is more likely to have a pro-Beijing-majority. Examples are Pokfulam and the Peak in Hong Kong Island.

But for districts with lower median income, there is no specific pattern. Lee Cheng Uk in Sham Shui Po has more supporters for the pan-democracy camp than its neighbour So Uk and Un Chau even though they have similar median income.

A possible explanation is the difference in home ownership rate—that in Lee Cheng Uk is over 70% while that of neighbouring So Uk and Un Chau only is under 10%.

Home ownership rate in areas involved in the 2018 LegCo by-election

The pattern holds in other parts of Hong Kong as well. Areas with high home ownership rate of over 90% such as On Tai in Sha Tin East and King Yee in Sai Wan Ho are both districts with pan-democracy-majority in the by-election.

In contrast, many areas with low home ownership rate such as Kai Tak in Kowloon City and Ap Lei Chau Estate, a public housing estate right next to South Horizon, have a pro-Beijing-majority.

The analysis is not perfect since it fails to explain some of the areas like University and Braemar Hill, both of which have very similar median income and home ownership rate but not in political stance.

Other demographic characteristics such as median age and education level have been compared with the by-election results as well. No significant pattern is identified.


Implementation with R

This implementation is done with R.

The shapefile can be obtained here.

The package HK80 can be installed from this GitHub repository.

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