What are the political impacts of issue salience of the
employment issue? How do voters respond to individual
worries about the employment situation in elections? Despite
a strong tradition of research on economic voting, little is
known about the link between issue salience of the
employment situation and the dynamics of voter choice.
Furthermore, what is seldom studied is an individual
heterogeneity in the relationship between the employment
issue and voter choice.
Table 1. Issue salience in the 2002 Korean
Table 2. Voter transition in the 2002 presidential
Table 3. Employment issue and left vote in the 2002
Korean presidential election
Table 4. Robustness check
Table 5. Voter heterogeneity, employment issue and
left vote in the 2002 Korean presidential election
Table 6. Effects of the employment issue among middle
Table 7. Multinomial logit analysis of employment
issue and left vote
Table 8. Multinomial logit analysis: abstention and
The findings of this article suggest several implications
for political science and public policy. First, the voter
transition pattern found in this analysis may be considered
as providing an electoral mechanism in line with the
continued popularity of larger welfare states in an era of
fierce economic competition across countries. When the
issues regarding the employment situation and economic
vulnerability become salient, electorates tend to demand a
greater public provision of social welfare and social
protection from the government.
Second, this article
suggests a particular pattern of the politics of the middle
class. Middle income groups are less likely to be strongly
partisan. Instead, it is well recognized that middle income
groups tend to be less partisan, more independent voters.
Consistent with this fact, this analysis has found that
middle income votes are likely to swing contingent upon the
salient issue in the election. Middle income voters are
probably more susceptible and sensitive to a rapidly
changing employment situation than other groups are. As
Evans and Andersen (2006) have suggested, when politics are
less polarized and partisan identification is not firmly
established, issues such as the economy might have 'greater
latitude to cause swings in vote choice' (2006: 204). At the
income group level, this logic applies to the middle class.
To the extent that middle income voters tend to be swing
voters critical to electoral competition, the electoral
consequences of the issue salience of the employment
situation are not trivial at all.