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Broadcasters' exit polls predict landslide but overestimate margin

Opting for ratings, broadcasters introduce slew of entertaining footage

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : April 11, 2024 - 17:20

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A screen capture from SBS' A screen capture from SBS' "People's Choice" shows Incheon’s Gyeyang-B Democratic Party of Korea candidate Lee Jae-myung (left) and People Power Party candidate Won Hee-ryong parodying a scene from "Romeo + Juliet." (SBS)

While South Korean broadcasters correctly predicted a sweeping victory for the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea in Wednesday's general election, the actual margin of victory was not as great as their forecasts suggested.

When the counting had concluded on Thursday, the main opposition Democratic Party claimed 161 out of the 254 seats in electoral districts, while the ruling People Power Party claimed 90. Including proportional seats, the main opposition and its satellite party won 175 seats, while the ruling party and its satellite party clinched 108 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

Exit polls jointly conducted by terrestrial broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS predicted the Democratic Party and its satellite party to secure between 178 and 197 seats, while the ruling bloc was projected to secure 85 to 105 seats.

The discrepancy has largely been attributed to the record turnout of 31.28 percent of the electorate during the two-day early voting period last week. According to the Public Official Election Act, exit poll surveys cannot be conducted on early voting days.

Each broadcaster released its own projections Wednesday, based on data from the joint exit polls.

Overall, public broadcaster KBS came up with figures closest to the actual results. It forecast a minimum of 178 seats for the Democratic Party and its satellite, which was three more than the actual outcome. It also predicted a maximum of 105 seats for the People Power Party and its satellite, which was three less than the actual outcome. SBS predicted corresponding numbers of 183 and 100, while MBC suggested minimums of 184 and 99, respectively.

 

A screen capture from SBS' A screen capture from SBS' "Choice of People" shows Seoul Yeongdeungpo-B Democratic Party of Korea candidate Kim Min-seok (left) and People Power Party candidate Park Yong-chan parodying a scene from "Secret Garden." (SBS)

As on previous election nights, the three broadcasters sought to outdo each other in entertaining viewers on the long night of counting ballots. The general election broadcasts ran an average of 13 hours.

SBS stood out from the pack, airing lengthy footage of candidates parodying scenes from famous films such as French teen romance "La Boum" and tear-jerker "Love Story," as well as a slew of hit Korean drama series, such as "Stairway to Heaven" and "My Love From the Star," while releasing the real-time results.

KBS aired short footage of key candidates performing rap battles of their election pledges, while MBC served hearing-impaired viewers by explaining the ballot status in sign language on the screen.

Meanwhile, apart from JTBC which presented independent exit poll results, the election broadcasts of cable channels such as TV Chosun and MBN generally stuck with presenting ballot results. From the onset of their broadcasts, the cable channels offered analyses of the general election by political pundits.

MBC topped the ratings for election night coverage. According to Nielsen Korea, MBC's the third segment of "Choice 2024," which aired from 9:50 p.m. to 11:40 p.m. on Wednesday, recorded the highest viewership ratings out of all the election coverage by Korean broadcasters at 11.7 percent.

The unique election coverage by Korean broadcasters won points with some communication experts.

"By integrating state-of-the-art AI technology and graphics into broadcasts covering pivotal news that captures the world's attention, the broadcasts can contribute to informing the global audience about Korea's technological excellence. Such broadcasts can also play a role in having politics be more approachable to the general public," said Kim Chang-nam, a professor of political communication at the Graduate School of Media & Communication of Kyung Hee University.

A screen capture from KBS' A screen capture from KBS' "Choice to Change My Life" shows Incheon’s Gyeyang-B People Power Party candidate Won Hee-ryong engaged in a rap battle of election pledges. (KBS)
A screen capture from MBC's A screen capture from MBC's "Choice 2024" shows Shim Gwi-ok, a sign language interpreter who explained the ballot status for hearing impaired viewers. (MBC)