Lee Myung-bak’s approval ratings show signs of recovery, for now

Posted on : 2008-08-25 14:56 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Return of GNP support gave Lee a boost, but his real estate and personnel policies could bring everything tumbling back down

With the Lee Myung-bak administration approaching the six month mark this August 25, interest is focusing on whether it will be able to regain the initiative in state affairs. This is because Lee said he would push his major national tasks if they gained some support within six months of his inauguration.

It is clear that Lee’s approval ratings, which could be seen as one side of his initiative in national affairs, have recently been recovering. In an August 19 poll by Korea Society Opinion Institute, approval of Lee’s handling of national affairs was 24.8 %, a 1.4 % point increase from August 12, when it recorded 23.4 %. Surveys by other pollsters have put Lee’s approval rating in the 30th percentile. The recent numbers, however, reflect the time when the survey was given, so they do not say much about the future. Experts generally agree that Olympic fever tends to work as a premium for the government and ruling party.

Cheong Wa Dae and the Grand National Party are expressing a feeling of expectation concerning the future. A Cheong Wa Dae official said the recent recovery of Lee’s approval ratings was an expression of the return of support for his rule-of-law based administration from the party base, which had previously withdrawn its support. He said if the social welfare policies the administration will push in the future begin to have a tangible effect, the approval ratings would climb still further. GNP lawmaker Kim Sung-shik said the climb in Lee’s approval rating was not simply due to the Olympics, but was instead a sign that the government had gotten past the crisis and turned the corner.

There are differing forecasts, however. In the KSOI poll, only 38.7 % of respondents said they expected anything from the government’s social welfare policies. Only 37.9 % said they agreed with the president that the economy would recover by the end of next year. Some 44 % opposed the relaxation of real estate regulations, against 34 % who approved. This reveals considerable concern about the national tasks prioritized by Cheong Wa Dae. KSOI research head Han Gwi-yeong said expectations of an economic recovery are low, despite strong messages to the contrary from President Lee. He said if we remember that Lee was elected as an “economic president,” not only have expectations for his policies dropped precipitously over the last six months, but they have yet to start recovering.

One politician who served as a high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul said that at the time, the feeling was that if they successfully carried out the Olympics, the administration would stabilize, but it was not the case. He warned that the administration needed to be careful, because if one looks closely at the real estate and personnel policies currently being pushed by the government, it is highly possible that the administration’s approval ratings will hit bottom by the end of the year.

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

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