Democratic Party anxious over nominee Lee Jae-myung’s stagnant poll numbers

Posted on : 2021-11-12 17:15 KST Modified on : 2021-11-12 17:15 KST
While People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Seok-youl has enjoyed a boost in the polls following his nomination, Lee continues to be dragged down by scandals and gaffes
Democratic Party presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung speaks at a discussion on youth and virtual assets held at the National Assembly Members’ Office Building on Wednesday morning. (National Assembly pool photo)
Democratic Party presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung speaks at a discussion on youth and virtual assets held at the National Assembly Members’ Office Building on Wednesday morning. (National Assembly pool photo)

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party isn’t sure what to do about the lackluster polling of Lee Jae-myung, its presidential nominee. The party insists that support for Lee’s main rival Yoon Seok-youl is only seeing a temporary boost following his confirmation as the presidential nominee of the opposition People Power Party on Nov. 5. Even so, the Democratic Party is struggling to push Lee’s support above the 30% range it’s currently stuck in.

Major opinion polls published this week show Lee trailing Yoon by more than the margin of error. Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research International and Hankook Research reported on Thursday that Yoon had 39% of support and Lee just 32% in a poll of 1,009 voting-age adults around the country surveyed on Nov. 8-10.

Sim Sang-jung, candidate for the Justice Party, and Ahn Cheol-soo, candidate for the People’s Party, both claimed 5% of support in the poll, which had a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

A similar trend was seen in other polls. Yoon led Lee 44.4% to 34.6% in a poll of 1,030 adults carried out on Nov. 8-9 by Realmeter at the request of YTN, a television news channel. Yoon’s lead was as high as 11.8 points (43% to 31.2%) in a poll carried out by the Korea Society Opinion Institute for TBS on Nov. 5-6.

Members of the Democratic Party think the main reason for Lee’s sluggish standing in the polls is due to the fallout from allegations about real estate development in Seongnam’s Daejang neighborhood and his failure to do much to redeem himself from the scandal.

“What we need is a two-track approach where the party mounts an aggressive defense against the Daejang neighborhood allegations and the candidate focuses on policy, but that hasn’t been working out very well,” said a senior member of the Democratic Party’s election committee.

The party’s task forces on the Hwacheon Daeyu corruption scandal and the prosecution service’s alleged manipulation of the political process continue to meet, but they haven’t made the kind of meaningful progress that could shake things up.

Party members also say that Lee went too far when he shared posts criticizing feminism from the internet communities FMKorea and DC Inside. “In those posts, Lee was too narrowly focused on [the support of] men in their 20s, despite also being weak with women in their 20s and 30s,” a frustrated member of the election committee said.

While Lee has cut back on Q&A sessions with reporters in an attempt to avoid gaffes, he continues to make comments that haven’t been cleared with the Democratic Party. Some examples are his pledges to give 300,000-500,000 won (about US$250-$425) in stimulus payments to all Koreans, provide public housing on an “unimaginable” scale, and create a “blockchain-based development profit-sharing system.”

During a meeting on Thursday, election committee members said they hope that Lee will coordinate his policies with the party before unveiling them. They say Lee hasn’t been doing enough to campaign on concrete and carefully prepared pledges.

Democratic Party members are clearly discouraged about Lee’s continuing underperformance in the polls — especially in contrast with the convention bump that Yoon Seok-youl and the PPP are enjoying.

But some expect there will be a correction in the polls once the enthusiasm over Yoon’s nomination subsides. “The two candidates’ positions in the polls will narrow after a two-week adjustment period. There’s still plenty of time until the election, so this isn’t the time to be worried,” a lawmaker in the Democratic Party said.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

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