Voters in their 40s will play a key role in the June 4 local elections with the April 16 ferry tragedy shaking up their already variable party preferences.
Koreans in their 40s, 8.9 million of whom account for 21.7 percent of all voters, have shown a tendency to remain neutral in terms of party preference in past elections. As such, the results of the tight races in the local elections will ride on which party those in their 40s decide to side with as the ruling Saenuri Party goes to the polls with ratings reduced by the Sewol tragedy.
With just 11.5 percent of the 40-somethings taking part in the May 30-31 advanced voting, the majority of the group is expected to flock to polling stations on Wednesday. In the voting intention polls conducted by the National Election Commission last month, 54.3 percent of the 40-something group said they would “definitely vote.”
Voters in their 40s are also considered crucial for another reason -- they have no allegiance to one political party or another.
While those in their 20s and 30s lean toward the progressive bloc, and the 50s and 60s groups toward the conservative bloc, those in their 40s show variability in voting preference.
In the 2012 presidential election, for example, the majority of the younger group of voters chose the then-Democratic United Party’s Rep. Moon Jae-in, while most of those 50 and over voted for the ruling Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye, according to an exit poll conducted by a local broadcaster.
Those in their 40s, however, had no partiality toward a specific party, showing just a 10 percentage point difference between their first choice candidate Moon at 55.6 percent and Park at 44.1 percent.
A survey conducted by Gallup Korea before and after the Sewol tragedy also showed the group’s likeliness to change their opinions based on events surrounding the election.
In a survey held in April, just before the Sewol tragedy, 61 percent of people in their 40s answered positively in evaluating President Park Geun-hye’s performance, while 28 percent responded negatively.
In a survey conducted in the third week of May, however, only 39 percent viewed her performance in a positive light, while 52 percent answered negatively.
“The number of people in their 40s who show up to the polling stations on the day of the elections has become crucial,” Lee Taek-soo, head of Realmeter told local media.
By Suh Ye-seul (firstname.lastname@example.org)