Ahn's Withdrawal Doesn't Help Moon

      November 26, 2012 12:06

      Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye enjoys an approval rating of 43.5 percent and Democratic United Party hopeful Moon Jae-in 39.9 percent, according to Media Research poll for the Chosun Ilbo.

      The poll was conducted on Saturday and Sunday, just after independent Ahn Cheol-soo suddenly withdrew from the race on Saturday night.

      The difference in approval ratings between Park and Moon lies within the margin of error for such polls, while minor candidates including the Unified Progressive Party's Lee Jung-hee and independent Kang Jee-won each garnered less than 1 percent.

      Meanwhile, 16 percent of the respondents said they back none of the candidates or declined to answer.

      A simulated run-off between Park and Moon by Media Research on Oct. 27 showed 47.1 for Park and 45.3 percent for Moon. But the gap widened from 1.8 percentage points to 3.6 percentage points after Ahn's withdrawal.

      Among voters supporting Ahn before he withdrew, who made up 32.4 percent of all respondents, 56.9 percent shifted their support to Moon but 20.5 percent chose Park, 21.4 percent said they support none and 1.2 percent back a different candidate.

      Overall, 43.1 percent of Ahn's supporters appear to have chosen to back a candidate other than Moon. The number of swing voters has risen from 9.3 percent to 16 percent.

      Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo announces his withdrawal from the presidential race at a press conference in Seoul on Saturday.

      Moon's camp tried to win over Ahn's supporters by agreeing to field a single opposition candidate, but voters do not appear to see Ahn's abrupt withdrawal as signaling his blessing for Moon's bid. Far from it: the fact that Ahn pulled out before a single candidate was agreed seems to have had a negative impact on Moon's image.

      "A large number of voters view Ahn's decision as a unilateral withdrawal rather than a successful selection of a single candidate," said Yoon Hee-woong at the Korea Society Opinion Institute. "It appears to reflect a rift between Moon and Ahn's camps and drove away a lot of swing votes," Yoon added.

      Pundits also feel Moon will not enjoy much benefit from becoming the sole viable opposition candidate. "Voters remain divided," said Bae Jong-chan of polling agency Research and Research. "It seems Ahn supporters don’t want to switch their support to Moon right away."

      The key that could still turn the situation would be an endorsement from Ahn, Bae said.

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