May 8, 2017
Data Firms Weigh In On South Korean Presidential Race During Polling Blackout
By Brent M. Eastwood
The South Korean presidential election scheduled for tomorrow has been fraught with anxiety as voters remain divided over the direction of the country’s political future. The aftermath of a presidential impeachment has placed heightened scrutiny over the presidential race. North Korea has added to the apprehension as it continues to rattle the electorate in its quest to mate ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
Predata, a New York geopolitical risk firm, conducts election predictions using “digital momentum” it gleans from candidate Wikipedia searches, Twitter use, and YouTube comments. Predata previously issued guidance on the South Korean election on May 5, May 4, and May 1.
Software titan Ahn Cheol-soo is dominating the “digital discussion,” according to Predata on May 5. Ahn logged an 85 percent measure of online influence and support. Polling front-runner Moon Jae-in tallied an estimated 37 percent score in digital momentum, while conservative firebrand Hong Joon-pyo trailed in online engagement. Predata believes that Ahn’s expertise in technology has given his campaign an advantage in social media communication.
Predata also noted that the South Korean electorate was more concerned about economic security: “if economic reform is the main concern, Moon again stands to benefit. He has proposed a nearly $9 billion fiscal stimulus to spur job growth and small business creation.”
On May 4, Predata focused its analysis on national security concerns after the installation of an American missile defense system, known as THAAD. Predata’s predictive analytics allows it to examine specific issues such as missile defense and how various hot-button topics affect the digital discussion.
Predata found that Moon gained the most from the THAAD controversy: “anger over the THAAD most benefits presidential race frontrunner Moon Jae-in of the left-leaning Democratic Party. The least hawkish candidate, he has pledged to suspend the system’s deployment pending a comprehensive review and possible renegotiation with the United States.”
On May 1, Predata determined that the election was a two-man race between Moon and Ahn. Ahn scored over 75 percent in the digital campaign and Moon had dipped to just over 25 percent.
GovBrain uses a patent-pending “Trend Meter” inside its machine learning and artificial intelligence system. GovBrain analyzes digital trends from nearly one thousand government, regulatory, and legislative sources along with political, financial, and technology news sites from around the world.
According to GovBrain’s trend meter, Moon Jae-in is comfortably ahead. Moon has finished strong since early voting began on May 4. His highest growth rates were over the weekend, with a prominent upward spike on Saturday, May 6. Moon’s trend meter growth has cooled off in the last twenty-four hours, but he remains the frontrunner by a large margin in the winner-take-all round of voting tomorrow.
The battle for second place is extremely close. Ahn Cheol-soo has a tiny edge over Hong Joon-pyo. Hong has been surprisingly resilient over the last fourty-eight hours, according to GovBrain. It appeared that Ahn had more momentum on Sunday, but Hong clawed his way back today.
Two other candidates, Yoo Seung-min and Sim Sang-jung, round out the field. Yoo, a conservative economist, has had difficulty since early voting started. Observers give him credit for skillfully articulating his brand of conservatism, but he has struggled to break through. Sim, a progressive, has performed well over the last twenty-four hours and the trend meter has her finishing in fourth. Both candidates are relatively young and they should have a bright future in South Korean politics.
“This is a change election and an election about ideological re-alignment,” GovBrain explained.
“The political pendulum has swung to the left as conservative candidates are unable to remove the stigma of impeached president Park Geun-hye. This is very similar to the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter in the United States in which Gerald Ford and the Republicans were negatively associated with Richard Nixon and Watergate. Moon Jae-in, like Carter, is seen as a refreshing change,” according to an analysis by GovBrain.
Prior to the polling blackout on May 2, most surveys had Moon with a commanding lead. The liberal-left candidate claimed 40.6 percent of supporters in the Embrain poll. Four others had Moon between 36 percent and 40 percent support. Opinion polling had the race for second place much closer. Ahn and Hong have registered support between 16 percent and 20 percent. Polls from Embrain and Kantar had the contest for second place between one and two points. Sim Sang-jung and Yoo Seong-min are far behind in single digits, according to polls conducted before the blackout period.
Unlike in the recent French presidential election, there will be no second-round runoff. South Korea’s National Election Commission expects to declare the winner on Wednesday morning. The winner will be immediately sworn in as the next president.
Other blogs in this series:
- IMF and World Bank in Need of More Modern Forecasting Methods
- The Prediction Game: Data Science Firms vs. Pollsters on Sunday’s French Presidential Election
Brent M. Eastwood, PhD is the Founder and CEO of GovBrain Inc that predicts world events using machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and data science. He is a former military officer and award-winning economic forecaster. Brent has founded and led companies in sectors such as biometrics and immersive video. He is also a Professorial Lecturer at The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.