The Dwindling Conservative Base: Data

The reliable conservative voters are too old and dying off.

The Dwindling Conservative Base: Data

Image: Exit polls for the 2024 General Election, broken down by age and gender. Credit: MBC News.

The People Power Party 국민의힘’s crushing loss in the General Election 총선 was in part driven by demographics. Simply put, the reliable conservative voters are too old and dying off.

The main conservative bloc is the so-called Industrialization Generation 산업화세대, who came of age under South Korea’s developmental dictatorship. In contrast, voters born between 1961 and 1980 - the so-called Democratization Generation 민주화세대 - have a decidedly liberal bent. Although members of the Democratization Generation outnumbered the Industrialization Generation by 18% in 2012, older voters more than made up for the disparity with their higher turnout rate. 

But the Industrialization Generation is shrinking, by approximately a million people every four years. It accounted for 34.8% of all voters in 2012, and only 24.3% of voters in 2024, meaning at present rates that it will make up only 21.4% of voters in the 2028 General Election. Meanwhile, the Democratization Generation’s share of the electorate will grow to 36.4% by 2028. 

In 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 was able to counteract this trend in part by co-opting the toxic misogyny of young male voters. But Yoon undercut his own base of support with his ouster of Lee Jun-seok 이준석, who went on to form his own New Reform Party 개혁신당. In exit polls this year, 16.7% of men in their 20s and 9.5% of men in their 30s said they voted for the NRP - votes that might otherwise have gone to Yoon’s People Power Party 국민의힘.

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