Will Yoon’s lowest approval ratings yet force him to change?

Posted on : 2024-06-08 10:09 KST Modified on : 2024-06-08 10:09 KST
The president’s 21% approval rating could accelerate the arrival of his lame-duck period, some assess
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at a workshop for People Power Party lawmakers held at the JEI Leadership Development Center in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, on May 30, 2024. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at a workshop for People Power Party lawmakers held at the JEI Leadership Development Center in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, on May 30, 2024. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's approval ratings have fallen to 21%, the lowest he’s seen since taking office. Critics say that even after the landslide defeat of the People Power Party in the recent general election, the president shows no signs of introspection, merely superficially gesturing toward “dialogue.” He has, however, devoted his political powers to shielding his wife from official investigations, leading some to say he’s accelerating the arrival of his lame-duck period.  

In a telephone survey of 1,001 voting-age Koreans conducted by Gallup Korea on May 28-30, 21% of respondents said they approve of Yoon’s performance as president, as opposed to 70% who said they disapprove. These figures represent the lowest approval rating and the highest disapproval rating Yoon has seen since his inauguration, 3 percentage points lower and higher, respectively, than a week earlier.  

Gallup’s survey had a 95% confidence interval, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and an 11.1% response rate. 

President Lee Myung-bak had a 21% approval rating in June 2008, when the public outcry over controversial US beef imports resulted in massive protests. An approval rating that low is nearly impossible for a president who is not facing a crisis. 

“He’s lucky he has three years left in his term,” said Choi Chang-ryul, a professor at Yongin University. 

“If these approval ratings came out near the end of his term, he’d be reduced to a vegetable president.”  

The disapproval ratings seem to be a direct statement about Yoon himself. When looking at the reasons provided for disapproval, the economy and inflation accounted for 15% of responses, while foreign affairs accounted for 6%. His presidential vetoes of various bills accounted for 6%, while his alleged meddling in the investigation about a dead Marine accounted for 4%. Affairs involving the first lady accounted for 3%. When taken together, issues directly related to the personal behavior of Yoon accounted for a significant portion of the reasons people disapprove of his administration.  

“There were a lot of references to the presidential vetoes and the Marine corporal investigation,” said Jang Deok-hyun, the director of Gallup Korea’s planning and research department.  

“These issues surely had a negative impact on Yoon’s approval ratings.”  

Other factors included lack of communication (9%), general incompetence (7%), authoritative or unilateral behavior (6%), and lack of professional experience (4%). Since the general election in April, many reasons for disapproval are directly related to Yoon’s personal character rather than his policies or governance. Respondents in their 60s and older — his traditional support base — only gave an approval rating of 30%, a drop of 11 percentage points since the previous week. Residents of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, normally his staunchest supporters, gave an approval rating of 35%, a drop of 3 percentage points in one week. These figures are likely a punch in the gut for the president.  

The presidential office, however, has blamed “political attacks from the opposition” for the dwindling poll numbers. 

“Factors like the economy and inflation are currently improving when looking at the numbers, and factors like lack of dialogue are currently being improved through press conferences, meetings with opposition leaders, and state banquets with the press,” said a presidential office insider.  

“Yet the political opposition keeps pouring on its attacks, especially regarding the Marine investigation, and that is hurting our numbers.”  

The opposition, however, sees this as a “you reap what you sow” situation. Kim Seong-yeol, the head spokesman of the New Reform Party, declared, “It’s merely a statement on the condition of an administration that abuses presidential vetoes to shield himself and his family.”  

“But it’s still the midterms. If he doesn’t change his attitude, not only will he become last in class, but he won’t even graduate.”  

“Even support from conservatives, Daegu and North Gyeongsang has fallen,” said Kim Dae-jin, the CEO of research firm Jowon C&I. 

“His presidential vetoes may have worked in the short term, but if this trend continues, he’ll become a political lame duck — a president completely abandoned by the people.” 

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Jang Na-rye, staff reporter 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr


button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles