Centrist voters swayed by President Moon’s response to virus outbreak

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Centrist voters swayed by President Moon’s response to virus outbreak

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Centrist voters are dissatisfied with the Moon Jae-in administration’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak, a survey showed Wednesday, and their votes for the April general elections will be swayed by the current situation.

According to a poll commissioned by the JoongAng Ilbo and conducted by Hankook Research, 50.9 percent of the centrist voters said they think the government is doing poorly in the fight against the outbreak, while 44.6 percent said the government is doing well. The poll was conducted on Feb. 26 and 27 on 1,000 people across the nation, over the age of 18, and the JoongAng Ilbo released the outcome on Wednesday.

Of all respondents - liberals, conservatives and centrists - 50.7 percent said they are dissatisfied with the government’s countermeasures against the outbreak, while 47.1 percent said they are satisfied.

Evaluations are extremely split between the liberals and the conservatives. While 81.8 percent of the liberals positively evaluated the Moon administration’s response to the outbreak, 82.5 percent of the conservatives gave negative evaluations.

The political ideologies of the poll respondents were almost evenly divided into three groups. Among the respondents, 36.5 percent were identified as centrists, while 31.2 percent were liberal and 32.2 percent were conservative.

Instead of asking the respondents to identify their own political ideologies, the polling company analyzed their answers on key policy issues such as real estate ownership tax, inter-Korean relations, prosecutorial reform, real estate policy and minimum wage to sort them out.

Of the respondents identified as centrists, 45.2 percent said they are undecided on whom they will support in the April 15 general elections. Asked if the coronavirus outbreak will affect their decision, 61.4 percent of the centrists said it will.

The figure is 7 percentage points higher than the 54.4 percent of the total respondents who said the outbreak will affect their votes in the general elections.

The conservatives reacted more sensitively to the issue. According to the poll, 66.1 percent of the conservative voters said their decision will be affected by the outbreak and the government responses, while only 34.1 percent of the liberals said they will be affected.

According to the poll, 18.9 percent of the centrists said they will withdraw their support for candidates they have been backing in the aftermath of the outbreak. The figure is higher than the 14.7 percent of the total poll respondents.

Among the conservatives, 57.3 percent said they will continue to support their candidates, higher than 41.6 percent of the liberals.

“The outbreak will likely have a significant impact on turnout and voters’ decisions,” said Park Jong-sun, a research director of Hankook Research.

The people in Daegu and North Gyeongsang are most dissatisfied with the government’s response to the outbreak.

According to the poll, 61.7 percent of the respondents in Daegu and North Gyeongsang gave a negative evaluation of the government response, while 71.4 percent of Jeolla residents gave positive evaluations.

The negative evaluations were highest among those in their 20s - 61.1 percent are dissatisfied with the government response to the outbreak. Those in their 50s came second with 56.5 percent, and those older than 60 followed with 53.9 percent.

People are increasingly upset about the Moon administration’s response. When Hankook Research conducted a poll on 2,000 people nationwide from Feb. 19 till 21 at the request of KBS, 65.8 percent of the nation said the government response was satisfactory.

As infections surge, more deaths are reported and the government fails to resolve the shortage of face masks, public sentiment visibly worsened.

“At the time, only 31.8 percent gave negative evaluations to the government,” said Park. “But in the latest survey, it went up by nearly 19 percentage points.”

It appeared that the centrists are negatively evaluating the government because of their concerns about the economy. Nine out of 10 centrists said they are concerned about the economic slowdown, and 74.2 percent said they are worried about their individual and household economies.

The trend is more similar to the pessimism displayed by the conservatives. According to the poll, 96.4 percent said they worry about the economic slowdown of the country, while 81.6 percent said they are concerned about individual and household economies.

In contrast, the liberals were relatively optimistic. While 83.8 percent of the liberals said they are concerned about the country’s economy’s slowdown, only 48.4 percent said they are worried about their individual and household economies.

Among the different industries, 86.9 percent of those working in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries expressed concern about individual and household economies.

Among the self-employed, 77.6 percent expressed concern, while 70.9 percent of the sales and service industry workers said they are worried about their individual and household economies.

The poll had a 95-percent confidence level and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. More details are available on the website of the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission.

By KIM SEUNG-HYUN AND SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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