Swing Votes Helped Yoon to Wafer-Thin Victory

  • By Hong Young-lim

    March 11, 2022 12:48

    The presidential election on Wednesday was a heavy blow to the ruling Minjoo Party but no great triumph for the opposition camp, whose candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party was elected by a wafer-thin majority.

    Initial analysis suggests that the swing was mostly due to young voters and supporters in the southwest and Seoul. Yoon won by a just 0.72 percentage points, showing liberals and conservatives almost equally balanced between their lackluster candidates.

    But the ruling party dramatically lost the fulsome support that led to its super-majority in the last general election. Voters in their 20s and 30s were considered swing voters during the entire campaign. They tended eventually to rally around the progressives in previous elections, but various surveys during the latest campaign showed them split between Yoon and his rival Lee Jae-myung.

    Exit polls of the three major broadcasters still showed the outcome pretty much as it transpired, with Yoon getting 45.5 percent support among voters in their 20s and 48.1 percent among those in their 30s, while Lee garnered 47.8 percent and 46.3 percent.

    A closer look shows that men in that age group tended to rally behind Yoon and women behind Lee.

    Exit poll results of the presidential election are shown on TVs in an electronics store in Seoul on Wednesday. /Newsis

    Seoul was a weak front for the conservative party, which lost six out of seven presidential elections there since Korea began direct elections to choose a leader in 1987. But Yoon surprisingly won 50.6 percent of the capital, beating Lee by a comfortable 4.8 percentage points. He was ahead of Lee in 14 out of 25 districts including the affluent Gangnam area that has been a traditional stronghold of the conservatives.

    In contrast, President Moon Jae-in won all districts of Seoul in the 2017 presidential election, while arch-conservative Park Geun-hye beat her rival in only five districts in 2012.

    The change in voter sentiment was hugely affected by the Moon administration's failed real estate policies. Yoon beat Lee in Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Gwangjin, Mapo, Seongdong, Yangcheon, Yeongdeungpo, Yongsan as well as Gangnam, which were significantly affected by surging real estate prices and the government's punitive taxes on multiple-home owners.

    A majority of voters in their 20s and 30s in the capital, for whom Moon made it nearly impossible to own an apartment in Seoul, shifted their support in favor of the PPP. 

    But Yoon only won 12.7 percent of the votes in Gwangju, 11.4 percent in South Jeolla Province and 14.4 percent in North Jeolla Province, which are traditional strongholds of the liberals, where Lee won 84.8 percent, 86.1 percent and 83 percent. But Yoon’s combined 12.8 percent in the southwestern region, though pathetic on the surface, was still the best result for a conservative ever and 2.3 percentage points higher than Park's in 2012.

    Bae Jong-chan at online news outlet Insight K said, "In previous elections, voters in southwestern Korea overwhelmingly supported the liberal party, but this preference is slowly changing." 

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