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Young angry voters are making a difference

Apr 18,2016
Young and angry voters in their 20s are seen to have played an important role in the unexpected outcome of the general elections last week, which resulted in a liberal majority in the legislature.

The JoongAng Ilbo conducted a survey of over 153 people in their 20s through social media, as well as face-to-face interviews with 20 people in this age bracket in the Sinchon and Jongno 2-ga neighborhoods.

According to the survey, conducted over three days from Friday to Sunday, 75.2 percent of respondents said that they cast their ballots for an opposition candidate. Of these, 58.2 percent voted for a Minjoo Party candidate in their constituency, and 17 percent cast their ballot for the People’s Party. In contrast, just 15.7 percent said they voted for a Saenuri candidate.

In this social media survey, 53.9 percent of respondents said that they engaged in crossover voting for the general elections that took place Wednesday to elect lawmakers to four-year terms, in favor of the liberal opposition. Through the general elections on Wednesday, the liberal Minjoo Party won 123 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, becoming the largest power in the legislature, ahead of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party’s 122 seats. Ahn Cheol-soo’s People’s Party emerged as a new political force by winning 38 seats, leading to liberal lawmakers outnumbering conservatives in the legislature.

The number of voters in their 50s was 18.22 million, some 2.46 million people more than during the 2012 elections. In contrast, the numbers of those in their 30s decreased. Yet despite the high number of older voters, who generally lean conservative and have a high turnout, this general election showed an unexpected result.

The overall voting turnout for those in their 20s last week was higher than in previous general elections.

This year, the turnout of those in their 20s was 49.4 percent, according to exit polls by the three public broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS. In comparison, the general elections in 2012 garnered a 41.5 percent voting rate for those in their 20s and a 28.1 percent rate in 2008.

According to the three public broadcaster’s exit poll data, 77 percent of those in their 20s voted for the opposition, while 16.5 percent voted for the Saenuri Party.

Likewise, 79.5 percent in their 30s, 72.9 percent of those in their 40s and 53.7 percent in their 50s voted for the opposition. Those over 60 were the only age group that had a higher voting rate for the Saenuri, with 59.3 percent casting ballots for the ruling party, compared to 35.2 percent for an opposition party.

Likewise, early voting polls also showed that young people comprised the highest percent of early voters out of all age brackets.

According to the National Election Commission (NEC), those in their 20s had the highest turnout in early votes, conducted ahead of the Wednesday election, at 17.91 percent.

In comparison, those in their 30s comprised 9.79 percent, those in their 40s were 9.98 percent, those in their 50s were at 11.83 percent and those over 60 were at 12.8 percent.

Korea recorded its highest voter turnout for early voting with 12.2 percent, or 5.13 million out of the 42.1 million eligible voters, casting their ballots over a two-day period, according to the NEC.

According to the respondents of the newspaper’s social media survey, judgement of the government and the ruling party was the most important issue, at 43.5 percent, followed by policies and pledges advantageous to the youth, at 25.5 percent, and support for a third party, at 16.3 percent.

The vast majority of respondents, or 95.4 percent, expressed negative views of President Park Geun-hye, noting issues with the way state affairs are being run, economic policies and the failure to carry out pledges.

Interviews with young people in two neighborhoods with many college students, Sinchon in Mapo District and Jongno 2-ga in central Seoul, likewise reflected that the opposition Minjoo Party and People’s Party were able to gain seats by appealing to “angry voters,” people in their 20s who were fed up with the current ruling power because of various societal, political and economic issues.

Their grievances include the government’s inadequate response to curbing the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) last summer, the slow response to the Sewol ferry sinking in April 2014, which led to 295 confirmed deaths, and the ruling party’s candidate nomination process for the election, which favored loyalists to the president.

Some others were job-hunters who did not think the government had done enough to resolve the youth unemployment issues, while others supported a three-party system in order to balance out the legislature.

BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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