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Ahn’s surge in polls scares Moon

Ex-software mogul bridges gap that was 22 percentage points
Apr 07,2017
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With Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential nominee of the People’s Party, rising fast in the polls, the May 9 election is shaping up as a neck-and-neck contest between Ahn and Democratic Party nominee Moon Jae-in.

In a poll by the JoongAng Ilbo, Moon led Ahn in a six-way race - including the candidates from five major political parties and one independent - 38.4 to 34.9 percent.

In the six-way race, Liberty Korea Party (LKP) nominee Hong Joon-pyo garnered 9.6 percent support, followed by the Bareun Party’s Yoo Seong-min with 2.7 percent. The progressive Justice Party’s Sim Sang-jeung came in fifth with 2.1 percent.

Kim Chong-in, the former DP interim chief who declared an independent bid on Wednesday, came last with a scant 1.7 percent.

In a hypothetical three-way race among Moon, Ahn and Hong, Moon barely maintained his lead over Ahn by 1.1 percentage points. He received 41.9 percent support compared to Ahn’s 40.8 percent. LKP nominee Hong received 12.2 percent support.

When Hong is replaced with the Bareun Party’s Yoo Seong-min, Ahn actually leads Moon 45 to 41.4 percent, a red flag for the Moon camp. Rep. Yoo received 7.4 percent support.

The JoongAng poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday on 1,500 adults nationwide with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

And in a two-way race, Ahn comfortably led Moon 50.7 to 42.7 percent, the largest gap Ahn has achieved so far over Moon in the polls.

But such a two-way race is considered far-fetched. It assumes the two conservative party candidates would drop their bids and support Ahn for the sake of defeating Moon.

Ahn’s fast ascent in popularity is affirmed when looking at a poll conducted just two weeks earlier.

In a JoongAng poll conducted on March 18 and 19, Ahn was behind Moon by more than 20 percentage points, 34.7 to 13 percent. And there is one major difference between the March poll and the latest one.

In the March poll, South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung were included, with An taking 21 percent and Lee 8.1 percent. But the two are now out of the race after primary defeats to Moon.

A sizeable chunk of their supporters have rallied to Ahn rather than Moon, resulting in a 21.9 percent increase in numbers over a two-week period.

Of An’s former supporters, 59.9 percent have gone to Ahn’s side, while Moon only garnered 20.3 percent. Of Mayor Lee’s former supporters, 54.7 percent of them said they would endorse Moon while 30.1 percent are for Ahn.

After the exodus of An’s supporters to the People’s Party nominee, the term “Ahnexit” was coined to describe the trend.

A Moon camp insider told the JoongAng Ilbo such an exodus was hardly a surprise to them.

“Given that Governor An’s former supporters are not traditional DP members, we anticipated a large chunk would move across the party line [to Ahn’s side],” said a campaign staffer as quoted by the JoongAng Ilbo.

As for conservative voters throwing support to Ahn, political observers note they are making a strategic choice as LKP nominee Hong has little chance of winning the election.

To them, Ahn is a better choice as his views are considered to be moderate compared to Moon’s progressive principles.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]