Presidential polls close but many voters remain undecided
According to a poll by the Korea Society Opinion Institute (KSOI) last week, support for main opposition People Power Party (PPP) candidate Yoon stood at 37.2 percent, and support for Lee, the candidate of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), stood at 35.1 percent.
There was a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level.
The support for the other two major candidates were 8.4 percent for Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party and 2.2 percent for Sim Sang-jung of minor progressive Justice Party.
The poll was conducted from Thursday to Friday, following the first televised debate involving the four candidates, at the request of Kukmin Ilbo.
The close race between Lee and Yoon showed in various responses.
When asked to predict who might win the election, putting aside the political leanings or beliefs of the respondents, 41.7 percent said Yoon and 40.6 percent said Lee.
The pool of supporters for Yoon and Lee varied notably.
Yoon had more supporters in their 20s and above 60 than Lee, while Lee had more supporters in their 30s and 40s than Yoon.
Those in their 50s were divided between the two candidates, with 40 percent of the respondents in their 50s supporting Yoon and 39.7 percent supporting Lee.
More Seoulites supported Yoon over Lee — 43.2 percent of Seoul residents said they support Yoon and 34.8 percent of Seoulites said they support Lee.
In Incheon and Gyeonggi reigons, Yoon received 34.3 percent support and Lee 33.6 percent.
Lee had more support than Yoon in the Chungcheong region, and Yoon had more than Lee in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang.
In Honam region, which includes the Jeolla provinces and Gwangju, areas that are traditionally DP strongholds, Lee had 54.5 percent support, while Yoon had 19.2 percent.
In the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region, also called the TK region and traditionally a conservative stronghold, Yoon had 52.9 percent support and Lee 25.8 percent.
The neck-and-neck race between Yoon and Lee was also visible in other polls, such as one by public poll institute Realmeter, also conducted from Thursday to Friday. In the poll, Yoon had 43.3 percent support and Lee 41.8 percent. There was a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level.
In this poll, Ahn received 7.5 percent support and Sim 2.6 percent.
Despite the gap in support between Yoon and Ahn of the conservative bloc, when the respondents were asked who should be the single conservative candidate should the two campaigns decide to merge, Yoon and Ahn were about tied.
In the KSOI survey, 43.3 percent of respondents said the single conservative candidate should be Yoon, while 42.3 percent favored Ahn.
Ahn has denied multiple times in media interviews the possibility of a merger with Yoon's campaign.
With three more presidential debates to go, about 30 percent of respondents said they may change their support depending on how the debates turn out. In the KSOI survey, 32.1 percent said they can change their mind about who they vote for after seeing the debates.
The rate was especially high among those in their 20s and 30s — 53.8 percent of those in their 20s and 55 percent of those in their 30s said they can change their mind after the debates.
On the other hand, 70.7 percent of those 40 and above said what the candidates say in the debates will not change their minds. Of these, 72.6 percent were supporting Lee and 83.1 percent were supporting Yoon.
The next presidential debate will be held on Feb. 21 and will focus on economics. The debate on Feb. 25 will focus on politics and the debate on March 2 on social issues.
The first presidential debate on Friday had a cumulative viewership rating of 39 percent, the second highest for a presidential debate to date.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]