Blackout on survey results begins from today

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Blackout on survey results begins from today

Media and polling companies are banned from releasing new survey outcomes concerning next week’s general election starting today.

The National Election Commission said Wednesday that opinion polls conducted in the week preceding the April 15 general elections will be banned from being publicized. The information blackout period will start today and continue until the end of voting on April 15.

“No one shall publish or report, by quoting, the details or results of a public opinion poll, including mock voting or a popularity poll, that makes it possible to predict the approval rating of each political party or the successful candidate in an election, during a period between six days before the election day and the closing time of balloting on the election day,” Article 108 of the Public Official Election Act says.

During the information blackout period, media are still allowed to quote previous polls conducted before Wednesday.

According to the National Election Commission, 101 cases of possible violations in the law governing opinion polls concerning next week’s general elections were reported as of Tuesday. The election watchdog referred some of the cases to the prosecution to conduct investigations, while issuing warnings and slapping fines on others.

In past elections, public sentiment has often reversed during the six-day blackout period. The last general elections were a notable precedent. In a Gallup Korea poll, conducted from April 4 to 6, 2016, for the elections on April 13, then ruling Saenuri Party, the predecessor of the United Future Party (UFP), scored 39 percent of the approval rating while the Democratic Party (DP) got 21 percent and the People’s Party 14 percent. But in the real elections, the DP got 123 seats, beating the Saenuri Party by one seat, and became the largest party in the National Assembly.

During the information blackout period, the Saenuri Party faced a scandal over controversial nominations, and centrist voters left the conservative party to support the DP, political experts analyzed at the time.

Voters’ sentiment was also reversed in the general elections on April 11, 2012. In the poll conducted one week before the elections, the then ruling Saenuri Party scored 35 percent while the Democratic United Party, a predecessor of the DP, got 31 percent. Despite the projected neck-and-neck race, the Saenuri won 152 seats, while the Democratic United Party won 127.

It remains to be seen if the latest poll outcome will be reflected in the next week’s elections, where lawmakers representing 253 constituencies and 47 proportional representatives will be selected under the new election system. According to a recent survey conducted but the polling company Embrain Public and commissioned by the JoongAng Ilbo, the ruling DP was maintaining the lead in the general elections, apparently owing to the Moon Jae-in administration’s leadership during the coronavirus outbreak.

The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday, and the outcome was released Monday. Forty-one point eight percent of the respondents said they will vote for a DP candidate in their constituencies, 17.1 percentage points higher than the UFP’s 24.8 percent. According to the poll, 15.8 percent of the voters said they support none of the candidates in their constituencies.

For the proportional representation elections, the Citizen Party, a de facto satellite offshoot of the DP, and the Future Korea Party, the satellite party of the UFP, were in a neck-and-neck race. The Citizen Party received 21 percent and the Future Korea Party 20.7 percent.

The Open Minjoo Party, another satellite party of the DP, received 9.9 percent, the Justice Party 8.5 percent and the People’s Party 4.6 percent.

If the support rates were translated into seats under the new system, the DP’s allies will likely win 28 out of the 47 seats earmarked for the proportional lawmakers. The Citizen Party would win 14, the Open Minjoo Party eight and Justice Party six.

The Future Korea Party will win 14 and the People’s Party will win five, according to the poll.

The poll showed that voters are largely indifferent to the new proportional representation system, because 19.1 percent said they support no proportional representation party and another 12.6 percent did not respond.

According to the poll, 56.4 percent gave positive evaluations of Moon’s performance, while 37.5 percent gave negative evaluations.

The public also positively rated the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. According to the poll, 72.6 percent gave positive evaluations to the government responses, while 24.3 percent gave negative valuations.

Asked about the prospect of the upcoming elections, 35.4 percent predicted the ruling party will win the majority, while 15.5 percent think the opposition will win the majority. Another 38.4 percent said the ruling and opposition parties will win similar numbers of seats.

Asked about whom they had voted for the last presidential election, 53.7 percent said they voted for Moon. The figure is higher than the 31.6 percent Moon won from all eligible voters and the 41.08 percent from ballots actually cast. It is an indication that the ruling party supporters are more actively responding to opinion polls.

According to Embrain Public, the poll was conducted with 1,000 voters nationwide using mobile and landline phones. The average responding rate was 13.7 percent. The confidence level was 95 percent and the margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. More details are available at the homepage of the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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