A self-realizing prediction?The presidential election is coming in about 35 days, and the questions the voters most want answers for are: “Who will be the consolidated liberal candidate?” and “Will he be able to beat Park Geun-hye?”
Predicting the future is a hazardous challenge of God’s territory, but humans still make an attempt to do it.
By asking many people, much like taking a poll, paying attention to recurring patterns or comparing similar cases from the past, we can make a prediction about an election by reducing the risks a little bit. Or we can try.
I am particularly interested in the argument among various predictions in the political arena that suggests Park has more of an advantage against Moon Jae-in, the candidate of the Democratic United Party. Although, she would be at a disadvantage against independent Ahn Cheol-soo. That argument could be reversed in the future by the courageous, intentional actions of humans or, perhaps, by chance. But it reflects reality pretty well, at least from the predictions of this morning.
If Moon is to be the candidate chosen by the liberals, will Park win? The argument commonly heard is that Park will have an advantage if Moon becomes the winner of the liberal candidacy consolidation process in the next 10 days or so. What are the grounds for this argument?
The first is opinion poll results. Until now, about 10 pollsters conducted dozens of surveys and Moon beat Park in a hypothetical two-way race in only one or two polls.
The second is that a certain number of supporters of either Moon or Ahn will slip away when the other becomes the consolidated candidate. For example, if Moon becomes the candidate, about 10 percent of Ahn’s supporters won’t back him. In contrast, if Ahn becomes the consolidated candidate, about 5 percent of Moon’s supporters won’t back him. Although there are some discrepancies in numbers depending on the surveys, the gap stays at 5 percentage points repeatedly.
This year, there are about 40 million eligible voters for the presidential election and there will be about 28 million votes cast if the turnout is 70 percent, which is what it was in the 2002 presidential election that Roh Moo-hyun won. Five percent of 28 million votes would be 400,000 votes, which is the consistent gap between Moon and Ahn.
The upcoming presidential election will be a battle between the conservative ruling campaign and the liberal opposition camp. We had similar battles in 1997 between Lee Hoi-chang and Kim Dae-jung and in 2002 was between Lee once more and Roh Moo-hyun. Lee lost in both elections by 390,000 votes and 570,000 votes, respectively.
In such a neck-and-neck race, Moon will have a difficult fight if he loses 400,000 Ahn supporters.
Another reason for Moon’s relative weakness against Park is the structure of the competition. If Moon and Park run against each other, it will be seen as a battle by the successors of Roh and Park Chung Hee, Park Geun-hye’s father. (Moon was a top aide to Roh.) In the battle of memories between Roh loyalists and Park Chung Hee loyalists, who will have the advantage?
Most opinion polls asking Koreans to rank their presidents result with Park Chung Hee at the top and Roh in second place. That could answer the question.
I am more interested in the second part of the argument, which indicates Park will be at a disadvantage against Ahn. If Ahn wins the liberal runoff, the prediction is that he could beat Park in the presidential race.
Ahn has beaten Park in most of the hypothetical two-way races in polls and he will lose 5 percent fewer liberal voters than Moon. The presidential election will also become a competition between new politics and old politics, so according to the prediction, Park will be at the disadvantage.
Then what about the liberal runoff?
In this case, the forecast is rather gloomy for Ahn. After the two candidates agreed to merge their campaigns, Moon’s popularity has rapidly risen. In opinion polls in the Jeolla region, the battleground constituencies for the runoff, Moon is ahead of Ahn.
The DUP has a well-established organizational power with 1 million members around the nation.
“When the opinion polls for the merger begin, the DUP members around the country will be ordered to sit in front of the phones or redirect calls to their cell phones to reply,” said a senior lawmaker of the DUP. “Ahn, who has no organizational power, couldn’t even dream about doing this. We have the know-how on how to handle opinion polls.”
There are two kinds of predictions - self-realizing predictions and self-defeating predictions. The former let the human spirit realize a prediction, while the latter obstruct a prediction from coming true.
It’s now up to Park, Moon and Ahn to accept my prediction as being self-realizing or self-defeating.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chun Young-gi