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Saenuri's Park holds narrow lead over DUP hopeful in last polls before election

Ruling Saenuri Party's presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye maintained a narrow lead over main opposition rival Moon Jae-in in the last nationwide polls that can be made public ahead of this year's presidential election, political watchers said Thursday.

The five surveys taken from Monday through Wednesday showed Park's approval rating between 42.8 percent and 48.9 percent, compared to 41.4 percent to 47.5 percent for the Democratic United Party (DUP) candidate.

Among the surveys released by broadcasters KBS, SBS, MBN and JTBC as well as the daily Munwha Ilbo, Park was ahead 0.5-6.8 parentage points with less than a week to go before the Dec. 19 poll.

Under the country's election law, no survey taken after Wednesday can be released to the public, although polls can be taken without the results being publicized.

"With the exception of one poll, Park's leads are all within the margin of error, making the final outcome very hard to predict," a political observer said. He, however, said the fact she has persistently stayed ahead since the start of campaigning on Nov. 27 may be a sign the 60-year-old holds a slight advantage in the final stretch of the race.

The final polls have become important because numbers taken the week before the election in 2002 and 2007 reflected the final outcome. In 2002, liberal candidate Roh Moo-hyun beat conservative contender Lee Hoi-chang, while five years later Grand National Party's (GNP) Lee Myung-bak secured a landslide victory over Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party (UNDP). Roh and GNP's Lee were ahead in the last polls released. The GNP and UNDP are predecessors to the current Saenuri Party and DUP.

In the KBS survey carried out on 2,500 people on Tuesday and Wednesday, Park was ahead 3.5 percentage points with her approval rating hitting 44.9 percent to Moon's 41.4 percent.

MBN's poll conducted on 1,000 voters on Monday had the conservative candidate leading by 3.4 percentage points, while the JTBC and Munwha surveys that covered roughly the same polling period as KBS and MBN, revealed Moon trailing by just 0.5-0.9 percentage point.

The SBS tally, on the other hand, was taken from Monday through Wednesday on 3,000 voters and showed Park leading by 6.8 percentage points, which is beyond the 1.8 percentage point margin of error.

In that survey, the Saenuri candidate's rating reached 48.9 percent vis-a-vis 42.1 percent for the DUP standard bearer.

Related to the polls, Saenuri campaign officials said that with 5-10 percent of all voters remaining undecided, they remain cautious about the results, yet predicted that Park will eventually win. 

Rep. Lee Sang-il, the party's spokesman, said despite the slight edge, everyone is on guard until the last vote has been cast.

The conservative party added that while there has been some erosion in Park's lead since onetime independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo threw his support behind Moon, the situation has stabilized overall.

The DUP, on the other hand, said Moon has done a good job in reducing the gap, and expressed confidence that the liberal candidate may overtake Park by the weekend.

Pollsters such as Yoon Hee-woong, chief analyst at the Korea Society Opinion Institute, said that the final polls will likely be used as key reference data by voters.

"Depending on how people perceive the numbers, these last surveys can trigger a bandwagon effect with people casting votes for the likely victor, or generate sympathy for the underdog candidate, if the race is very close," he said.

Others said that the last surveys may affect voter turnout that can influence the outcome of the election.

A survey carried out by Korea Research Center on behalf of the National Election Commission (NEC) on 1,500 people nationwide late last week showed 79.9 percent of all respondents saying they will definitely vote in the presidential race.

If the prediction is true, this translates into close to 32 million of the 40 million eligible voters voting on election day.

The NEC said the turnout forecast this year is 12.9 percentage points higher than numbers predicted ahead of the 2007 presidential race. In that race, 67 percent of all people polled said they would vote with the actual turnout hitting 63 percent. (Yonhap News)

<관련 한글 기사>

대선 앞둔 '마지막 여론조사' 결과는?

대선을 일주일 앞둔 12일 발표된 각종 여론조사에서 새누리당 박근혜 후보가 42.8∼48.9%, 민주통합당 문재인 후보가 41.4 ∼47.5%의 지지율을 기록한 것으로 나타났다.

대부분 조사에서 박 후보의 우위가 유지되는 가운데 박 후보와 문 후보의 지지율 격차는 0.5~3.5%포인트로 오차범위 내 접전으로 나타났다. 일부 조사에서는 지지 율 차이가 1%포인트 미만까지 좁혀지는 초박빙 결과가 나왔다.

13일 이후 여론조사 결과는 공표가 금지돼 있어 이번 조사가 공표 가능한 마지막 여론조사로서 대선판도는 한치 앞을 내다볼 수 없는 혼전 양상에 들어간 것으로 보인다.

KBS가 미디어리서치를 통해 11~12일 유권자 2천500명을 대상으로 한 조사(95% 신뢰수준에 표본오차 ±2.0%포인트)에서 박 후보 44.9%, 문 후보 41.4%로 박 후보가 3.5%포인트 앞서는 오차범위 내 접전으로 나왔다.

MBN이 한길리서치에 의뢰해 11일 전국 유권자 1천명을 대상으로 한 조사(95% 신뢰수준에 표본오차 ±3.1%포인트)에서는 박 후보 45.4%, 문 후보 42.0%로 오차범위 내에서 박 후보가 3.4%포인트 앞서는 것으로 나타났다.

JTBC와 문화일보 여론조사에서는 두 후보간 지지율 격차가 0.5~0.9%포인트까지 좁혀졌다.

JTBC가 11~12일 리얼미터를 통해 유권자 2천명을 상대로 한 조사(95% 신뢰 수준 에 표본오차 ±2.2%포인트)에서는 박 후보 48.0%, 문 후보 47.5%로 격차가 0.5%포인 트인 초박빙으로 나타났다.

문화일보가 11일 코리아리서치에 의뢰해 11일 1천명을 상대로 한 조사(95% 신뢰 수준에 표본오차 ±3.1%포인트)에서도 박 후보 42.8%, 문 후보 41.9%로 격차가 0.9% 포인트밖에 나지 않았다. 직전 조사에서 두 후보 간 격차는 3.1%포인트였다.

이 조사에서는 대선에서 "반드시 투표하겠다"는 적극 투표층(89.9%)에서도 박 후보 44.5%, 문 후보 43.2%로 겨우 1.3%포인트 차이로 접전을 벌이는 것으로 조사됐 다.

SBS 여론조사에서는 박 후보가 오차범위 밖에서 앞서는 결과가 나왔다.

SBS가 여론조사 전문기관인 TNS에 의뢰, 지난 10일부터 이날까지 유권자 3천명을 대상으로 한 조사(95% 신뢰수준에 표본오차 ±1.8%포인트)에서는 박 후보 48.9%, 문 후보 42.1%, 지지율 격차가 6.8%포인트로 오차범위 밖으로 박 후보가 앞섰다.

이는 지난 7∼8일 1천500명을 상대로 한 조사(95% 신뢰수준에 표본오차  ±2.5% 포인트)에서 박 후보 47.6%, 문 후보 43.6%로 박 후보가 오차범위 내인 4.0%포인트 우위를 보인 것보다 격차가 더 벌어진 것이다.