Blue House didn’t see DP win coming

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Blue House didn’t see DP win coming

President Lee Myung-bak and his Blue House aides were comfortably certain that the ruling Grand National Party would see a landslide victory against the opposition in the June 2 local elections - until their predictions were blindsided by the exit poll results.

And now political observers in and outside the Blue House are voicing the need to revamp their methods of assessing public sentiment, even warning that Blue House aides need to be be braver about submitting pessimistic predictions about election results to the president in the future.

Election day morning was a peaceful and hopeful time for many Blue House officials and the president himself.

Before heading back to Blue House from a polling station at Seoul National School for the Deaf in Singyo-dong, Lee joked to a group of journalists there to snap photos of him voting.

“Why don’t you ask me who I voted for? I picked candidates who work well,” Lee said.

When journalists asked about the election outlook, Blue House aides said they were confident they would win because pre-election surveys conducted by media including the JoongAng Ilbo had shown that the GNP would lead the other parties.

But then the afternoon exit polls announced on the three major TV networks - KBS, MBC, SBS - showed that some of the regions where the GNP was thought to be a shoo-in, such as Gangwon, Incheon, North Chungcheong, were likely to be taken by their rivals.

At that point, the tables turned. Instead of the journalists asking the questions, Blue House aides started calling reporters to ask about public sentiment and how the vote was proceeding.

Lee, who for more than an hour silently monitored the ballot counts on television, returned to his residence after apprehension about the results became actuality.

“The majority of reports Lee had seen before the elections were optimistic about the results,” said a Blue House aide who asked not to be named. “Lee probably was really shocked by the results, as he was believed the reports that said the elections would go well for the GNP.”

Blue House reports had told Lee that Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon would beat the Democratic Party contender, Han Myeong-sook, by 10 percent. In reality, Oh won by the slimmest of margins, only 0.6 percent.

In reports that analyzed the prospects in the North Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces, Blue House aides predicted, “Candidates from opposition parties are in fierce pursuit of the GNP candidates, but it will be difficult for them to narrow the gap.” In the end, the Democrats took the top posts in those provinces.

Some Blue House aides said they gave too much credit to pre-election phone surveys. People who participated in the surveys may have intentionally given misleading answers because they didn’t want to reveal who they were actually supporting.

Others said the problem was with their analyses.

“We did hear opinions from people in their 30s and 40s who suggested and warned that the GNP would meet with a disastrous defeat, but it’s not easy for us to give those opinions a lot of weight in the reports while there are an overwhelming number of more optimistic opinions,”a Blue House aide said.


By Kim Mi-ju, Namkoong Wook [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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