Why Were Election Forecasts So Wrong?

      June 04, 2010 09:30

      The local elections on Wednesday were filled with upsets as candidates who were widely expected to win based on the opinion polls either lost or barely scraped a victory. In some regions the shifts in support for the leading candidate and the runner-up was up to 20 percentage points, leading to considerable debate how forecasts of a landslide victory for the ruling Grand National Party could have been so wrong.

      In Seoul, which was the focus of attention during the latest election, GNP mayoral candidate Oh Se-hoon had 50.4 percent support while his rival Han Myeong-sook of the main opposition Democratic Party had just 32.6 percent in opinion polls by Korea's three major broadcasters on May 26. But Oh won by a wafer-thin margin of 0.6 percentage points.

      The most plausible reason for the upsets is that opinion polls assumed the choices of all eligible voters would be reflected in the ballots. But in reality only about half of them went to cast their ballot. "Compared to the 2006 local elections, voter turnout was higher among people in their 20s to 40s, who tend to support the opposition, while fewer people in their 60s or higher, who back the ruling party, cast their ballots," said Kim Ji-yeon, a managing director at Media Research, which oversaw the exit polls by the three terrestrial networks.

      This difference in voter turnout may also have been responsible for the difference in votes for the ruling and opposition parties in the morning and afternoon. Experts say older and conservative Koreans tended to vote in the morning, while people in their 20s to 40s visited polling stations in the afternoon and turned the tables.

      Experts also say the anti-North Korean atmosphere following the sinking of the warship Cheonan may have caused many supporters of the opposition camp to hide their true feelings in opinion polls but rally at the last minute because they worried what might happen if the ruling party swept the election.

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