Yoon, Lee are neck and neck in last polls before the election
The PPP's presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol was slightly in the lead with an approval rating of 46.3 percent over DP candidate Lee Jae-myung's 43.1 percent in a Realmeter survey released Wednesday, with just one week left until the election.
The survey was conducted on 1,007 adults nationwide over Monday and Tuesday. The 3.2 percentage point gap between the two candidates was within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party trailed behind in third at 6.7 percent, and Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive Justice Party at 1.9 percent.
Compared to a Realmeter survey conducted last month over Feb. 3 and 4, Yoon rose by 3 percentage points from 43.3 percent and Lee also rose by 1.3 percentage points from 41.8 percent.
In the latest survey, by region, Yoon received higher approval in the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region at 59.3 percent, the Busan, Ulsan, and South Gyeongsang region at 53 percent and the Daejeon, Chungcheong and Sejong region at 51 percent.
Yoon appealed most to those aged 60 and over with 60 percent support of those respondents.
Lee was popular in the Gwangju and Jeolla region with 64.6 percent support.
The DP candidate appealed most to voters in their 40s, at 61.5 percent, and in their 50s, at 49.1 percent.
When asked which candidate is likely to win the race, 50.3 percent of respondents selected Yoon, compared to 44.6 percent who picked Lee.
In a scenario assuming Yoon is the unified opposition candidate, Yoon received 48.4 percent support compared to 43.5 percent for Lee.
Assuming that the unified opposition candidate is Ahn, Lee took the lead with 38.4 percent, followed by Ahn with 29.7 percent.
However, when asked who is responsible for the recent failure of an opposition merger, 50.4 percent of respondents selected Yoon and the PPP leadership, while 43.4 percent pointed to Ahn and the People's Party.
On the possibility of a last-minute opposition merger before the March 9 election, 76.2 percent thought it was "impossible," while 17.3 percent said it was "possible."
However, 88.7 percent of respondents said they will continue to support their favored candidate in the election, while 9.6 percent said there is a possibility they could change their mind.
In another survey conducted by pollster Media Research, Lee was slightly in the lead with 45 percent support compared to Yoon's 44.9 percent. The poll was conducted on 1,000 adults over Feb. 28 and March 1 and fell within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Ahn came third at 5.1 percent, while Sim and National Revolutionary Party's candidate Huh Kyung-young tied 1.5 percent.
By age, Lee appealed most to voters in their 40s and 50s, and Yoon to those in their 20s and 60s.
Yoon was more popular to Seoul voters, receiving 44.7 percent support compared to 41.1 percent for Lee. But Lee appealed more to Incheon and Gyeonggi voters, with 48.8 percent compared to 43.7 percent for Yoon.
The National Election Commission (NEC) said media outlets will be prohibited from releasing public opinion poll results starting Thursday until voting ends at 7:30 p.m. on March 9. The voting time was increased by 90 minutes this year to enable voting for those diagnosed with Covid-19 or under self-isolation.
The top election watchdog said the release of opinion polls in the run-up to the election could risk distorting the true intentions of voters and disrupt the fairness of the electoral process.
The candidates are also campaigning to encourage advance voting, which will take place Friday and Saturday. Liberals believe that a high early voting turnout is helpful to the DP candidate because of their strong support base from busy voters in their 40s and 50s. But because of the spread of Omicron, all campaigns are encouraging advance voting.
The four major candidates spent a low-key Wednesday preparing for the third and final televised debate hosted by the NEC Wednesday evening on social issues.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]