Regionalism still dominant in presidential election

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Dec 17, 2012 - 20:45
  • Updated : Dec 17, 2012 - 20:45
The 18th presidential election will be decided Wednesday but its outcome remains unclear as ever with the country divided evenly over the two main candidates Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in.

According to an opinion poll conducted by Realmeter for The Korea Herald on Dec. 13, the Saenuri Party’s Park had 47.8 percent of support, while Democratic United Party’s Moon had 47.7 percent.

By region, Park and Moon’s main supporter bases appear unchanged, with the Gyeongsang provinces in the southeast showing stronger support for conservative Park, and the voters in the Jeolla provinces giving their support to Moon.

The survey shows Park’s supporters in North Gyeongsang Province and Daegu outnumbering those of Moon more than two to one.

However, Moon, who represents the progressive bloc with the backing of former independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, is dominating the field in the Jeolla provinces with 79.7 percent of the respondents in the region favoring the DUP candidate.

While the traditional east-west political divide appears to be holding, the Saenuri Party is hoping for support for its candidate from the Jeolla provinces to rise to a record high.

While the conservatives’ target of “20 percent plus alpha” support from the region seems unlikely, opinion polls conducted so far show Park to be enjoying unprecedented levels of support among Jeolla voters.

According to The Korea Herald’s survey results, 15.9 percent of the voters in the Jeolla provinces and Gwangju would choose Park over DUP’s Moon.

Surveys conducted by conservative dailies on Dec. 5 and 8 showed that between 10 percent and 14.7 percent of the respondents in the region preferred Park over the DUP candidate.

In comparison, in the 16th presidential election in 2002, Lee Hoi-chang of the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the Saenuri Party, received 3.6 percent of the vote in Gwangju, 4.6 percent in South Jeolla Province and 6.2 percent in North Jeolla Province.

In the following election in 2007, the figures rose for President Lee Myung-bak, also of the GNP, but at 8.9 percent, the figure fell far behind his national average of nearly 48.7 percent.

However, Park is not alone in making advances in the opposition’s territory. Despite the hopes of Saenuri Party’s election committee for South Gyeongsang Province to hold Moon’s approval rating in the region at below 30 percent, The Korea Herald-Realmeter survey put the DUP candidate’s ratings at 41.4 percent.

The pollster Gallup Korea also put Moon’s support in the region at 35 percent in its survey for Dec. 10 to 12.

The Chungcheong provinces, which have been crucial in past elections to such a degree that clinching the central region of South Korea is often considered the key to overall victory, however, are showing widely varying results.

Realmeter’s survey shows Moon to have 49.1 percent of the region’s votes and in the lead, while Gallup Korea’s results placed Moon 17 percentage points behind Park with 37 percent in the region.

Those in regions with the largest number of voters ― Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon ― appear to be relatively evenly divided between the two main candidates.

Gyeonggi Province together with Incheon has about 11.5 million voters, while voters in Seoul number 8.38 million.

According to the survey conducted by Realmeter for The Korea Herald, 47.7 percent of Seoul’s voters support Park while 46.1 percent would give their vote to Moon.

Among the Gyeonggi-Incheon voters, 48.2 percent favored Moon, while 47.2 percent said that they will vote for the Saenuri Party candidate.

Results of other surveys vary, but show the two regions to be in balance. Polls conducted by Gallup Korea showed that Moon was in the lead in Seoul with 45 percent over Park’s 42 percent. The company’s figures for the Gyeonggi-Incheon region placed Park in the lead with 48 percent over Moon’s 41 percent.

By Choi He-suk  (