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Dead heat race continues with a week until election

Poll results show Lee and Yoon still battling for lead before early voting starts Friday

Officials check ballots Wednesday at an office of the National Election Commission in Dongdaemun-gu, eastern Seoul, seven days ahead of the 20th presidential election. (Yonhap)
Officials check ballots Wednesday at an office of the National Election Commission in Dongdaemun-gu, eastern Seoul, seven days ahead of the 20th presidential election. (Yonhap)
With just a week to go until Election Day, many poll results are still showing a tight neck-and-neck race between the two major candidates, a situation unusual compared to past presidential elections.

A Realmeter survey of 1,007 adults conducted from Monday to Tuesday showed Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party in the lead with 46.3 percent, closely followed by Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea at 43.1 percent.

Minor centrist People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo placed third with 6.7 percent, and Rep. Sim Sang-jung of the left-wing Justice Party trailed Ahn at 1.9 percent.

While 88.7 percent of respondents said they would continue supporting their candidate of choice until the decisive day of March 9, 9.6 percent of respondents said their choice could change depending on how the presidential race unfurls.

A survey of 1,004 adults by Ace Research and Consulting Group conducted on Sunday and Monday also showed Yoon with 44.6 percent, ahead of Lee at 43.7 percent.

Another survey of 1,000 adults from Media Research conducted from Monday to Tuesday saw Lee with 45 percent, slightly ahead of Yoon with 44.9 percent.

One poll of 1,028 adults from Kantar Korea conducted from Feb. 21 to Tuesday breaks from the pack and shows Yoon far ahead of Lee, 44.1 percent to 34.1 percent.

The four aforementioned surveys each had a confidence level of 95 percent and margin of error at plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

These poll results are some of the last surveys that will be allowed for release ahead of the March 9 election, as the National Election Commission prohibits releasing election poll results from six days before Election Day.

The election watchdog’s official guideline says that the purpose of prohibiting the announcement is to “prevent the possibility of an announcement influencing the elections and distorting the will of voters, therefore hampering the fairness of an election.”

Past records show that those leading poll results a week before presidential elections succeeded in winning the top administrative seat, even if that meant being within the margins of error.

Results of surveys conducted a week prior to the presidential election in 2017 showed President Moon Jae-in with a clear lead among four major candidates, and Moon clinched victory in accordance to the favorable survey results.

Former President Park Geun-hye had a marginal lead over Moon in surveys released a week before the presidential election in 2012. She was leading by as little as 0.5 percentage point over Moon and went ahead to score a win seven days later by bagging 51.55 percent of the votes.

Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, was far ahead of his rival Chung Dong-young from the liberal faction in poll results released a week before the election, and he scored 48.67 percent of the votes over 26.14 percent by Chung a week later on Dec. 19, 2007.

As the tight race continues, Lee Jae-myung has been seeking to boost his chances against Yoon by joining hands with factions against Yoon and the People Power Party, the latest of which was to merge his campaign with Kim Dong-yeon of the minor New Wave Party after the two agreed on policy coalitions Tuesday.

Kim announced Wednesday he would stop his bid for the presidency and lend support to Lee Jae-myung, as the two are united in the need for aligned policies and to operate a joint government. The two on Tuesday met and promised to pursue reform measures on changing the electoral system.

Rep. Kang Hoon-sik, a senior official with Lee Jae-myung’s presidential election campaign committee, said in a press briefing Wednesday that Lee still has a chance to win the election as the ruling party candidate’s support ratings have steadily grown. It could grow even further should undecided voters side with Lee, Kang said.

Yoon has focused on drawing support from politically neutral voters by promising to bring about regime change, after having failed to unite candidacies with Ahn.

The People Power Party candidate has emphasized that Ahn and his aides are to blame for the failed negotiations by seeking to persuade voters that he himself was the rightful candidate to transform the regime.

Both campaign teams told reporters Wednesday that their candidates and key aides would spend the remaining days of the campaign period traveling across the country and appealing to voters of different regions under tight schedules.

For more information regarding the survey results, go to the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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