COVID-19 Data Analysis-1 (Progressive/Conservative) print   
JMF  Email [2020-06-16 17:05:20]  HIT : 297  


Metamorphosis of Progressive-Conservative Political Landscape 
among the Citizens of Global Cities


1. Background


On May 27th, 2020, Joongmin Foundation held the first media briefing at the Press Center in the downtown of Seoul to release some salient outcomes of the survey research on the COVID-19 pandemic conducted in early May. There were three presentations one of which was about the metamorphosis of the progressive-conservative political landscape in South Korea by Professor Emeritus Sang-Jin Han at Seoul National University. To begin with, how can we define the progressive and conservative orientations in an empirically reasonable and theoretically meaningful way? He started from a general observation that the progressives tend to put more emphasis on civil society than state power, take a bottom-up than a top-down approach, advocate rule of law rather than rule by political decision, represent diversities and minorities than the mainstream of the society, defend human rights rather than social order and prioritize public interests over state interests. Contrarily, conservatives tend to move in the opposite direction. Consequently, the progressives have been inclined to support various civil movements like democratic transformation, women's rights, ecological justice, and peace movements.  


 ▲ Figure 1: Main Characteristics of the Progressive and Conservative Orientations

However, these distinctions have altered drastically after the COVID-19 pandemic according to the survey conducted in South Korea, as Figure-2 shows. The figure demonstrates clearly that the difference was maintained up to 2010 but radically changed in 2020. Furthermore, the gap between the two has been enlarged.


Figure 2: Contrasting Priorities of the Progressives and Conservatives in South Korea

2. Research Topic

Encouraged by these empirical findings and inspired by the concept of the metamorphosis of the world offered by Ulrich Beck, we now attempt to investigate whether this change is an anomaly particular to South Korea or a general trend in the world. Originally, this research was designed as the last survey for our Global Research Network Project (2017-2020) funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea on risk perception and governance in Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we made a decision to extend the scope of our research to cover this new challenge stretching over 30 metropolitan cities. For this cosmopolitan study, the same questionnaires were translated into 10 national languages. Though the questions asked were diverse, we pay attention here only to the progressive-conservative political landscape to see whether the structural change confirmed in South Korea can be found in other countries in the world.

3. Questionnaire used

The question we used and analyzed is as follows: “When faced with risks threatening the security of citizens’ lives, some claim that citizens should follow the government’s decisions since the government represents an official authority, whereas others claim that the government should respect citizens’ judgments and develop appropriate policies, because it is the citizens who must actually face the risks. If there was a significant gap between these two, which opinion do you feel is more correct?” We offered the same scale from 1 to 10  indicated above. 

4. Major Outcomes

We now speak of two distinctive orientations. One is the state power-centered orientation, another is the civil society-centered orientation (SP-centered versus CS-centered). First of all, let's see how many of the progressive citizens share the SP-centered.   As Figure3 shows, in Seoul, as much as  78.4 percentages of the progressive citizens show this orientation, the top among the global cities under examination. This is followed by Toronto, Taipei, Oslo, Singapore, Sidney, Rome, and Madrid. As stated above, the progressives have traditionally defended the upward driving force for social change coming from civil society; however, after the COVID-19, the survey suggests that the majority of the progressive citizens around the globe have turned out to support the government’s decisions rather than civil initiatives. South Korea represented by Seoul indicates the largest change in the political terrain in the world. In most of the western cities, furthermore, this trend has been confirmed. An extreme exception is Hong Kong where strong democratic movements in the classical sense have led the progressives to defend civil society against state power. Besides, relatively small shifts in the political landscape have occurred in Japan (Osaka, Tokyo) with 49.6% and 45.3% SP-centered progressives, respectively.

          ▲ Figure 3: The size of the Progressive citizens with the SP-centered orientation

We now turn to civil society(CS)-centered orientation. As Figure 4 shows, in Oslo, as much as  70.8 percentages of the conservative citizens show this orientation, the top among the global cities under examination. This is followed by Wellington, New York,  Paris, Sao Paulo where more than 60 percentages of the conservative citizens support this orientation.  The conservatives have traditionally defended the authority of state power with more emphasis on order and stability than civil initiatives. However, after the COVID-19, the survey suggests that the majority of the conservative citizens around the globe have turned out to show the CS-centered orientation, with significant exceptions of New Dehli and Taipei. Taiwan may deserve special attention since the majority of both the progressive and conservative citizens merge into SP(state-power)-centered orientation. 

   ▲ Figure 4: The size of the conservative citizens with CS-centered orientation

Figure 5 shows how the SP(state power)-centered orientation is composed of in terms of the progressive and conservative citizens of 30 global cities. Simply put, the question is how many progressive and conservative citizens in each city merge into the political landscape putting more emphasis on state power than civil society. Globally seen, including the progressives and conservatives, the SP-centered orientation (57.8%) is more prominent than the CS(civil society)-centered orientation (42.2%). However, this tendency is far more clearly marked in some countries than in others. For instance, in South Korea, 78.4 % of the progressive citizens and 57.7 % of the conservative citizens merge into the SP-centered orientation. We can take it as an indicator of an overall structural transformation of the political landscape in South Korea affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, in New York, only 35.7 % of the Conservative citizens have joined in the SP-centered orientation.   

Figure 6 shows how the CS(civil society)-centered orientation is composed of in terms of the progressive and conservative citizens in the world. Data analysis shows that the CS-centered orientation is supported more by the conservative than the progressive citizens everywhere, particularly in the Western global cities.  From New York, London, Paris to Sidney and Wellington, more than half of the conservative citizens merge into the CS-centered orientation. This tendency deserves attention since the conservative citizens have traditionally been more inclined to the SP-centered orientation. 

    ▲ Figure 5: The size of the two types of citizens                                                      ▲ Figure 6: The size of the two types of citizens   
             with the SP-centered orientation                                                                             with the CS-centered orientation    

Based on these analyses, we would like to show a 
figure clearly visualizing how the SP(state power)-centered and the CS(civil society)-centered orientations are distributed along the two axes of the progressive and conservative citizens in the world. Figure 7 shows that the SP-centered orientation is located in the space right of the cutting central line in most global cities examined except Hong Kong. This means that the SP-centered orientation is clearly and organically associated with the progressive citizens, though its degree differs from one country to another. 

          ▲ Figure 7: Scatter plot -distribution of SP-centered orientation along the two axes 
of the progressive and conservative citizens

In contrast, Figure 8 demonstrates that the CS(civil society)-centered orientation is located in the space left of the cutting central line in most of the global cities except Hong Kong again. This means that the CS-centered orientation is clearly and organically associated with the conservative citizens, though its degree differs from one country to another. 

          ▲ Figure 8: Scatter plot - distribution of CS-centered orientation along the two axes 
of the progressive and conservative citizens

These global changes empirically demonstrated so far may suggest a metamorphosis of the world with respect to the traditional boundaries of the progressive and conservative orientations and citizens. It seems that a fundamental and structural transformation in the political landscape has been progressing affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Further Tasks

The time period of data collection is too brief, and there is a possibility that the result only has been a temporary phenomenon during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to establish a general trend with certainty, longitudinal data analysis and theoretical observation are necessary. However, the findings suggested are enough to alert us to investigate the relations between these changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, the variations among the countries with respect to these changes, and the implications of these for the future of politics in general and democracy in particular.

We have started this cosmopolitan research initially by asking if South Korean’s political transformation is a part of global change or not. We can now claim that a global change that amounts to a metamorphosis of the political landscape is taking place as deeply related to the internal logic and pathways of health risk governance by state powers. Consequences are grave, fundamental, and far-reaching, affecting not only the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the dynamics of the capitalist economy and the future of human civilization.

     74. The First Media Briefing on COVID-19 Survey
     46. 3rd Year Seminar of Global Research Network 2017-2020