By Juni Kim
The start of the South Korean general election campaign on April 17th marked the final stretch of the shortened election season. With absentee voting set to start this week, voters have until Election Day on May 9th to make their final decisions and fill the presidential vacancy created by the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye. The race, which was largely led by liberal candidate Moon Jae-in for much of the election season, tightened in recent weeks with a surge in support for People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo.
Our aggregate poll, which is an average of national polls conducted between April 18th and 24th, shows little overall change for candidate support compared to polls from the previous week, with the notable exception of a 3.9% decrease in support for Ahn Cheol-soo. All other candidates experienced a gain of support of 1.2% or less.
An interesting trend to keep watch on is Hong Joon-pyo’s small but steadily increasing support in recent weeks. In early April, Hong was polling consistently in the mid-single digits, but some recent polls show his numbers cracking double digits. His poll numbers are still a far cry from the two leading candidates, but increasing support for Hong may be to the detriment of Ahn Cheol-soo, who will need to consolidate the conservative vote to win the election.
Although Election Day is two weeks away, overseas voters will be casting absentee ballots this week and how the overseas vote tilts will be an important factor to consider. Nearly 300,000 Koreans overseas have registered for the upcoming election, and if polls tighten in the coming weeks the overseas vote may have a determinant impact on the election outcome. Last week’s polls and prior election results indicate a favorable overseas vote for Moon Jae-in. He had performed noticeably better overseas compared to the overall South Korean vote when he ran for the presidency in 2012, and his party similarly earned a larger share of the overseas vote in last year’s National Assembly elections compared to the general vote.
The polls included in our aggregate poll are from listings on the South Korean National Election Commission’s website. For more information, you can visit this page and see the polling data (in Korean) from each research organization. Our aggregate poll includes polls conducted by Realmeter, Gallup Korea, ResearchView, Research & Research, EMBRAIN, Hankook Research, R&Search, KSOI, Kantar, Joongang Ilbo, JoWon C&I, and Time Research.
Juni Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). The views expressed here are the author’s alone. Gwanghyun Pyun, an intern at KEI, also made contributions to this blog.
Image created by Juni Kim. Photo from Ji-ho Park’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.