Some in the Thai media and Thai society have been unhappy with the foreign media’s portrayal of the protests. The Nation in an editorial entitled “Elites versus the grass-roots is a dangerous myth”

Those seeking to portray the protests as a battle between rich and poor are missing the truth: most Thais are united by frustration with corrupt govt.

In a repeat of November 24, hundreds of thousands of people are out on the streets protesting against the Yingluck government. And once again, foreign media are portraying the protests as part of a conspiracy by the elite to overthrow a government elected by the people.

Bangkok’s elite and middle classes have been cast in this same role by overseas press ever since Thaksin Shinawatra was first targeted for street protests. This view of events ignored the corruption scandals, tax-evasion charges and strong suspicions that his government enacted laws to benefit his own telecom businesses. Now the same interpretation has been wheeled into place for the protests against the government led by his sister Yingluck.

BP: Although, The Nation does not explain how they know what most Thais want (an election where all Thais can vote could help determine who Thais want to represent them would give us an idea) and does not even cite a single article or quote of what they specifically dislike… Most Thais and most of the Bangkok elite and middle class are two different things….

The Asia Foundation have conducted a survey (PDF) looking at both anti-government PDRC protesters and pro-government UDD protesters. Their methodology:

A short questionnaire — comprising 24 questions in total, nine of which explored demographic profile — was developed by Foundation program staff, with a small team of survey supervisors and enumerators trained and enumerators deployed to administer the survey on Saturday, November 30, 2013. The original survey methodology aimed to interview 250 respondents in the two political activist groups: 250 PDRC demonstrators in each of the five rally locations around Bangkok; 2 and 250 red shirts assembled in Ratchamangkla National Stadium. Over the course of the day on November 30, as the intensity of the political gatherings increased, the security situation at the PDRC rally sites and the neighborhood surrounding Ratchamangkla Stadium deteriorated.

The security situation prompted supervisors to suspend or cancel data collection in certain areas to ensure the safety of the enumerators. As a result of security concerns, enumerators were only able to complete 315 of the 500 interviews planned: 161 at Ratchamangkla Stadium and 154 at four of the five anti-government rally sites (Ratchadamnoen Road, the Government Complex at Cheang Wattana, the Department of Special Investigations, and the Ministry of Finance).

BP: Ideally, we would have more people surveyed, but at least we have very specific questions (see later posts) on what people want and think. This survey is significantly more useful than man-on-the-street interviews as we get a better picture of who the respective protesters are….

Below are the demographic details (images are screenshots from the report):

NOTE: The order is that adopted by BP

Chart 1:

BP: As you will see PDRC voters tend to be younger.

Note: For gender, there was no difference.

Chart 2:

BP: Significant difference here. 26% of UDD protesters having a bachelors or masters compared with 67% of PDRC protesters. Also, 45% of UDD protesters have primary school or below OR secondary school qualifications vs only 14% of PDRC protesters. Both sets of protesters though differ from the national average.

NOTE: Interesting greater number of UDD protesters with diploma or vocational qualifications than national average or PDRC protesters.

Chart 3:

BP: This may be more because the age of PDRC protesters skews younger and hence they are less likely to be married than UDD protesters…

Chart 4:

BP: Fairly self-explanatory with more housewives who are UDD supporters being the major difference.

Chart 5:

BP: This is also fairly self-explanatory. Note the 5 to 1 advantage of farmers that UDD and that majority of UDD protesters are what could be called blue-collar vs majority of PDRC supporters are white-collar. This is not surprising, but it does reflect substantial differences. Whether you want to call this “class” or another term although it does help understand why the PDRC want a People’s Assembly made of up professions….

Chart 6:

NOTE: The “more than” is explained in the PDF as 60,000 and more (i.e “50,000-” is 50,000 to 59,999).

BP: No other chart explains the differences between the protesters* more clearly than the above. For all this talk by The Nation criticising “[t]hose [who are] seeking to portray the protests as a battle between rich and poor are missing the truth”,  what does the above chart show you? For incomes of 10,000 Baht a month and below, there are more than 4 UDD protesters for every 1 PDRC protester whereas for incomes exceeding 40,000 it is 5 PDRC protesters for every 1 UDD protester and especially 60,000+ whereas it is 8 PDRC to 1 UDD protester. This is a huge difference. Sure the protests are about a number of issues and there are differences between protesters and supporters (see * below), but you cannot ignore the above….

Chart 7:

BP: 32% of UDD supporters are resident in Bangkok (this is different from “born”) vs 57% of PDRC supporters.

Chart 8:

BP: The most interesting data point for BP is 42% of both comes from the central region which shows the gains that Puea Thai made at the last election (UDD is a major factor although you can’t ignore the rice pledging scheme either). Obviously, the protesters are not reflective of the entire society as the protests are in Bangkok and hence it is much easier for those from Bangkok and close to Bangkok to attend OR even reflective of supporters of each group, but you can see the clear differences between the two which is reflected in voting patterns (see Baker’s chart below) and which does actually mirror the seats that Puea Thai and the Democrats won at the 2011 election (yes, yes, not all PDRC supporters will vote Democrat or at least they won’t admit that).

48% of UDD supporters from outside of Bangkok are from the North and the Northeast (vs only 13% of PDRC supporters coming from these areas). In contrast, 45% of PDRC supporters come from the South, East, and Western Thailand (vs 11% of UDD supporters coming from these areas).

NOTE: Asia Foundation appears to be using the 6 region system. For the North and the Northeast, the population is 21,701,335 and 6,146,599 respectively (total population of 27,847,934) versus South, East, and Western Thailand whereas the population is 9,060,1894,465,777, and3,196,869 respectively (total population of 16,722,835). This explains the Democrats demographic problem because even if you include Bangkok it doesn’t help make up the difference (remembering also the surrounding provinces of Bangkok went for Puea Thai at the last election) so Bangkok and the surrounding provinces was actually split between Bangkok and Puea Thai.

Chart 9 : Baker’s chart of the 2011 election

Source: Chris Baker (although BP has changed to “Puea Thai”)…

*BP thinks there is a difference between protesters (those who attend the protests) and supporters of the different movements. We have actual data about the protesters, but it is slightly more complicated to talk about supporters of the different movements so will explain this is in a later post.