Yoon Suk-yeol (left), presidential nominee of the main opposition People Power Party, talks with his rival Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea during an event held Monday. (Joint Press Corps)
Presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea has ranked top in all polling results this year, as South Korea has just over 60 days left until the March election.
Continued turmoil within the main opposition People Power Party and the resulting fall in support of its presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol are all working in favor of Lee. Yoon has lost support from almost all age groups, including young voters in their 20s, as mistakes continued and allegations ensued.
A Realmeter survey of 3,037 voters commissioned by OhmyNews and conducted from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31 showed Monday that Lee was ahead of Yoon by 40.9 percent to 39.2 percent. Lee’s rating rose 1.2 percentage points from the previous poll, while that for Yoon fell 1.2 percentage points.
It is the first time the rate for Lee has stood above 40 percent in a Realmeter survey. The latest survey also marks the first time Yoon’s figure fell below 40 percent since making his run for presidency official.
Lee was ahead of Yoon in all age groups except the over-60s. Yoon lost his lead among voters in their 20s, traditionally thought as a key strength in his bid for the presidency marked by vocal opposition to the Moon Jae-in administration.
All other polling results released in 2022 had Lee ahead of Yoon well beyond their margins of error. A survey of 1,012 voters by Research & Research conducted from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1 found Lee ahead of Yoon by 9.7 percentage points, with 39.9 percent for Lee and 30.2 percent for Yoon.
Lee's striking lead comes as the People Power Party continues to suffer from an internal feud while Yoon battles controversies. The troubles are believed to have turned voters across age groups away from Yoon, which also worked in favor of Ahn Cheol-soo, the head of the minor opposition People’s Party.
The latest Realmeter survey found Ahn with a support of 6.6 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from the last survey. The Research & Research survey showed Ahn with 8.6 percent, significantly up from when Ahn announced his third presidential bid on Nov. 1.
Campaign teams for both Lee and Yoon have expressed intents to merge forces with Ahn ahead of the election, as absorbing the support group for Ahn assures a clearer chance of victory over any of the two nominees alone. Yet Ahn has made it clear that he has no intention to unite with any other candidate.
The Democratic Party has been working to consolidate forces with those outside the party, calling past members to return and join the party again for the sole purpose of strengthening its forces for the election. The party is accepting requests to return until Jan. 17.
Lee also showed a willingness to cooperate with his rivals from the primary race, emphasizing unity as a single team that would help tackle the relatively weak support base for Lee, who has often been critical of the Moon administration and lacks experience in central politics.
At the same time, Yoon’s campaign team has been fighting controversies surrounding Yoon’s wife, Kim Keon-hee. Even worse, strife is deepening and continuing within the People Power Party since its chairman dropped out of Yoon’s election campaign committee.
While Lee also battles his fair share of controversies, problems for Yoon have echoed louder recently, especially with some calling his campaign team's responses to the allegations inapt.
On Monday, Yoon's election campaign committee told reporters it would halt all campaign activities for the time being. It is expected extensive reforms will be made to the campaign team within this week under the lead of its head Kim Chong-in to regain voter support.
Kim told reporters the same day that latest poll results showing Yoon trailing behind Lee "had some effect" in pushing for the reform. He added that whether People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok will return to the campaign team will be discussed as well.For more information regarding the survey results, visit the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org