Saturday, March 12, 2011

Findings of the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Final Election


In democratic societies around the world, there often are opinion polls conducted by media, press, political parties, or organizations to measure opinions of their electorates on candidates running for various electable positions such as president, members of parliament, senate, governor, mayor, and other local leaders. Irrespective of whether these opinion polls measure the election result accurately or closely, the opinion poll seems an integral part of many electoral processes. This personal-initiated opinion poll was expected to fill this gap in the final/primary election of the Kalon Tripa (Tibetan Prime Minister).

Unlike other opinion polls, this opinion poll does not have a constituency, a state, or a country. Tibetans are electing prime minister in-exile; they are spread across the globe and so are their voting booths. Considering the Tibetan diaspora and the eminent lack of electorates’ contact records, an online opinion poll was deemed most suitable and appropriate at this juncture of the nascent Tibetan democracy in-exile.

Before the launch of this poll, a planning document was distributed on Dec 29, 2010 (via Tibetan news site, personal blog and Facebook note) welcoming Tibetan organization or volunteers to explore the possibility of one-to-one interview with electorates who do not feel comfortable or educated enough to participate in this online poll. Unfortunately, there was no response from any quarters for this initiative on one-to-one interviews (for more on limitations, see later part of the study).

For the first time, Tibetans felt and experienced the heat of democratic election via numerous talks, debates, and discussion on Kalon Tripa candidates. Generally, Tibetans saw, heard, read, and spoke at length about their interest and choice of candidates, sometimes overly passionate. One such evidence of the Tibetan interest in the Kalon Tripa election was a large pool of writings that came out in the Tibetan News portals, blogs, and social networking sites. Sometimes, it was an overwhelming task to keep track of the candidates and their campaigns as writings, videos, debates, talks, and discussions on Kalon Tripa kept rolling from all corners of the Tibetan diaspora.

Though the interest of general Tibetan populace is a good indicator of an emerging democratic society, there also are concerns shared by some writers. For instance, Bhuchung K. Tsering shared his concern on the growth of fanatics, and few others shared on the negative campaign tactics. This online opinion poll was therefore initiated with a purpose to gather inputs from the general Tibetans to assess such concerns, among others.

Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of this poll, as with other opinion polls, was to generate statistics based on participants’ inputs/responses. These statistics were expected to help achieve two primary goals.

First, with growing interest and discussions on the Kalon Tripa candidates and election, there are some prevailing assumptions and concerns shared among the general Tibetans (two such cases noted above). The first goal therefore was to examine the validity of these assumptions or concerns.

Second, this poll was aimed at providing an open platform for general Tibetans to share their opinions on the Kalon Tripa election and candidates.


Based on my earlier experiences of the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Preliminary Election, a planning document was shared with readers on Dec 29, 2010 to improve participations from India and Nepal. This planning document however resulted in no response from India and Nepal.

Later, with the help of my Facebook friends, I finalized on a flier, among the two I created for this online poll, for distribution to all major Tibetan-concentrated areas across the globe. Likewise, on Jan 23, 2011, I tested the survey questionnaire items with my Facebook friends to ensure the validity of the items. On the same day, I notified the Election Commissioner, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala via an email on this personal online poll initiative.

Following the testing of survey items as well as official announcement of the final three candidates by the Election Commissioner on Jan 19, 2011, I launched the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Final Election on Jan 26, 2011 with March 10, 2011 as the poll closing date. The poll duration was stretched to ensure participations from far flung Tibetan-concentrated areas in India and Nepal. All major announcements, related to this poll, were published in the Tibetan Political Review Website, The Tibet Post International Website, Phosamosa Website, my Facebook account, and my personal blog. The author did send a publication request to other major Tibetan news portal but with no success.

A clear information were provided on the survey launch commentary such as participant’s anonymity, survey duration, survey link, qualifying participants, closing date, my contact information as well as the opportunity for one-time participation. This online survey was designed to read the IP address so that a person using a computer can only participate once in the poll. This was generally intended to reduce the duplication of opinions/inputs.

The online poll consisted of 13 questionnaire items with two qualifiers, four on Kalon Tripa, six on demographic, and one concluding item. Participants were requested to provide their personal opinions. Out of the 13 items, one was open-ended. Weekly reminders were shared to my Facebook friends, and their friends with wall postings. The snap shots of each questionnaire items and its raw data can be assessed on my Facebook page.


On the poll closing date March 10, 2011, there were a total of 400 participants. The total male participants were 288 (73%) as compared to total female participants of 105 (27%). Seven skipped this item. Majority of the participants were from North America (198) followed by India (121) and Nepal (30). Surprisingly, there were 10 participants from Tibet. Of total participants, 77 percent were in the age range of 18 to 40 and remaining 23 percent were above 40 years of age.

For the two qualifier items, 387 were Tibetans and 6 non-Tibetan; 352 were registered voters while 41 were not. Seven participants skipped both these qualifier items.

A total of 56% of participants said experience, 53% vision, 33% integrity, and 27% trust when asked to select what best describes their choice of Kalon Tripa for the final election. Self-reliance with 10% and tried & tested with 18% were the two that received a lowest number of responses.

As of marital status, 44% were single, 53% married, and only 1% monk or nun. Moreover, a total of 69% of the participants have at least completed a bachelor’s degree while 32% were working for private employer or organization, 16% student and 13% self-employed.

A concluding question, “as a result of the entire Kalon Tripa electoral process, do you believe we, as a Tibetan, are more divided now that before?” received 57% “No”, 25% “Yes”, and 18% “Don’t know” responses. Earlier, I wrote a piece on this response. You can access this piece by clicking on this link, “Tibetans’ Nascent Democracy in Exile: Writers Play Active Role”.


Of the total 400 responses, 341 were valid. Using statistical software SPSS, the data (341 responses) were analyzed using descriptic statistics and cross tabulations. Some of the key findings are described below with the help of charts and a table.

Figure 1.

The figure 1 shows that a majority of the participants were male. Also, the support for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la was higher and evenly spread across both male and female as compared to other two candidates. However, this chart fails to provide opinions of monks and nuns who shares significant vote counts in the Tibetan diaspora. For your information, in the above and following figures, green bar indicates a number of responses for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, blue for Lobsang Sangay la, beige for Tashi Wangdi la, and pink for undecided voters.

Figure 2.

The figure 2 provides information on the number of responses each Kalon Tripa candidates received from several major locations. It was clear that a majority of the participants were from North America followed by India and Nepal. The high-rise green bar on North America and India indicates that the Tibetan electorates in these two locations prefer Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la as the next Kalon Tripa. In other locations, blue and green bar were spread across in proportion. However, the possibility of a skewed result cannot be denied in this chart (and study) as the largest Tibetan electorates still resides in India.

Figure 3. 

The figure 3 depicts the total number of responses each Kalon Tripa candidates received based on participants’ age. Of the total participants, 77% were in the age range of 18 to 40 and only 27% were above 40. This is understandable with an online opinion poll which tends to favors the younger generation who are savvier towards internet and computers. This chart helped to answer one of the common assumptions i.e., younger generations support Lobsang Sangay la. However, the study and above chart showed no evidence to support this assumption.

KT8 (Preliminary choice of Kalon Tripa candidates)

Did Not Vote
Gyari Dolma
Lobsang Sangay
Penpa Tsering
Tenzin Namgyal Tethong
Tashi Wangdi
 KT6 (Choice of candidate for final election)
Lobsang Sangay

Tenzin Namgyal Tethong

Tashi Wangdi



Table 1. Cross Tabulation KT6*KT8

Table 1 shows the result of a cross tabulation analysis that helps to examine differences in participants’ change of Kalon Tripa candidate’s choice with that of their earlier choice in the preliminary election. This table may be one of the key findings of this study that helps to provide some understanding on the effects of campaigns, among others.

From the table, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gained votes while Lobsang Sangay lost some. A total of 118 participants voted for Lobsang Sangay la in the preliminary election while only 86 chose him for the final election. Similarly, 114 for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la for preliminary while 179 chose him for the final election; 39 for Tashi Wangdi la for preliminary while 61 chose him for the final election. It seems clear that Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gained the most of votes followed by slight gains for Tashi Wangdi la. However, Lobsang Sangay la lost the most votes to other two candidates.

Let’s take a look at details on “who gained what” by matching participants’ preliminary choice of Kalon Tripa candidates with that of their final choice. As for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, he gained 36 votes from Lobsang Sangay la, 19 from “who did not vote” in the preliminary election, 10 from others, 9 from Tashi Wangdi la, and 2 each from Gyari Dolma la and Penpa Tsering la while losing only 13 (114-101) from his total count of preliminary votes.

As for Lobsang Sangay la, he gained 9 votes from “who did not vote” in the preliminary election, 4 from Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, 3 from Penpa Tsering la, 2 from Gyari Dolma la, and 1 from Tashi Wangdi la while losing 51 (118-67) from his total count of preliminary votes.

Finally, as for Tashi Wangdi la, he gained 12 votes from Lobsang Sangay la, 7 from Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, 6 from others, 4 from “who did not vote”, 2 from Penpa Tsering la, and 1 from Gyari Dolma la while losing only 10 (39-29) from his total count of preliminary votes. This gain for Tashi Wangdi la provides an evidence for another assumptions i.e., Tashi Wangdi la will split Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la votes. However, Tashi Wangdi la gained more of Lobsang Sangay la’s votes (12) as compared to Tenzin Namgyal la’s votes (7).

In addition to the above three figures and a table, none of the other analysis provides new or different understanding on the general Tibetan opinions. Throughout the analyses, it was clear that the support for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la was uniform and spread evenly across the scales.

Finally, an open-ended question was asked to participants asking for additional comments on 2011 Kalon Tripa final election, candidates, or campaigns. Patterns and themes were examined on a total of 111 responses. Excluding the general comments, some of the common patterns and themes were: the need of experience; the push for change; concerns for negative campaigning and character assassinations; and calls for province-less or sectarian-less election. Three comments were directed to the Election Commission: simplification of the voter registration process; consideration of Tibetan voters in Nepal; and the need of extra security in all the polling booths. It was not clear what it means by extra security.

Limitations of the Study

Online surveys are not without limitations. Some major limitations of this online opinion poll are:

1.              This poll failed to collect opinions/inputs of Tibetans with no computer and/or English language skills.
2.              With IP settings of one-time restricted participation, only one member of the family (owning one computer) was able to provide his or her opinion on behalf of the family.
3.              With the Tibetan electorates spread across the globe, it seems impossible to adopt a good sampling technique. Therefore, the study’s finding cannot be termed as statistically significant.
4.              With low participation rates from India, the generalization of the study’s findings may not be appropriate.

Discussion and Conclusion

Despite the limitations, the study succeeded in providing useful information on the general opinions of the Tibetan electorates concerning the Kalon Tripa election and candidates. A brief closing analysis of each Kalon Tripa candidates is provided for better connection to the study’s purpose.

Tenzin Namgyal Tethong
He is clearly the winner of this opinion poll. It is however not clear if his win in this poll was a result of his campaigns that started after the preliminary election. The poll’s finding suggests his success in gaining votes. However, the margin of gains, from his preliminary vote counts of 12,314, needs to be seen. To conclude, he seems to have emerged out of the preliminary election as an opponent to a close contender to Lobsang Sangay la in the final election.

Lobsang Sangay
The findings from this poll are definitely a concern for Lobsang Sangay la. He lost a large count of votes to other two candidates while gaining a little. The poor show of Lobsang Sangay la in this poll begs a question on his later campaigns. Or is it because of the campaigns from the other two candidates? The effect of lost votes on Lobsang Sangay la can only be known on the day of the election results. However, Lobsang Sangay la’s loss of votes may provide a close race between Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la and him in the final election.

Tashi Wangdi
Though he gained voters’ supports in this poll, the gains were not significant enough to count him as a contender for the next Kalon Tripa. His total votes in the preliminary election were 2,101. However, it needs to be seen how his presence as the third candidate will influence the final voting tally of the two leading candidates.

A total number of registered voters were around 82,000. By assuming 75% voter turnouts on the Election Day, the total voters may be around 61,500. As per the electoral rules, any candidates should have at least 33.4% of the total votes to win the election, which means a total of at least 20,541 votes to win. This winning number begs several questions such as will Lobsang Sangay la’s preliminary votes of 22,489 enough to win the final election? Or will Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gains enough votes to reach this magic number? Or will Tashi Wangdi la play a major role in who wins this election?

On a final note, this poll succeeded in presenting what it was intended for i.e., to generate statistics based on participants’ inputs or responses. However, the accuracy or legitimacy of the study’s findings can be known only on the day of the Kalon Tripa final election’s result announcement.


This online opinion poll was made possible with helps from several dedicated individuals. First, I would like to thank the Tibetan Political Review, The Tibet Post International, and the for providing space on their Websites for the poll. Second, I am thankful to my Facebook friends who provided valuable suggestions and supports for this poll especially with the flier postings. Finally, to all the participants - without you, I would not have this final poll analysis.

PS: This study is written purely based on the participant’s inputs and responses. The author (or the survey administrator) has no affiliation with any of the Kalon Tripa candidates. Neither do the author endorse any of them. The author tried to be as short and objective as possible throughout the analysis. Further analyses of the results are more than welcome.

1 comment:

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