Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 26, 2011
PUBLIC OPINION has so thoroughly poll-axed the Kan Cabinet one wonders how they’ve managed to keep their skulls intact, much less their government. Earlier this month, the latest Jiji news agency poll — perhaps the nation’s most accurate — showed the over/under for the Kan Cabinet to be 12.5% approval and 71.6% gag reflex. That’s the second-lowest approval rating Jiji has ever recorded for a Japanese prime minister; the lowest was the 10.8% result for Mori Yoshiro in April 2001 after months of media pummeling. It’s not everyone who can obliterate the sympathy and sense of unity created after one the world’s worst natural disasters, but all Kan Naoto had to do was act naturally.
The numbers are just as dismal in the other media polls, which are conducted using RDD, unlike the Jiji survey. Last week’s Sankei Shimbun/Fuji poll pegs the rate of support at 16.3%. That’s even lower than the thumbs-up rate for the unlamented former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio when he decided that taking a powder was the better part of valor.
But the most intriguing results for the Sankei/Fuji poll aren’t the responses to the question asking people what they think of the Cabinet. For example, the poll asked those surveyed whether they thought the primary objective of the prime minister’s behavior was to extend the life of his government.
Mr. Kan has said the Diet’s passage of three bills are the condition for his resignation. (That a politician so thoroughly detested presumes to set the conditions for his departure suggests severe dysfunctionality both in his personality and the political system, but let’s leave that for another day.) The Sankei/Fuji poll asked those surveyed whether the prime minister should resign even if those conditions weren’t met.
Did Mr. Kan read it and weep? Probably not — when the going gets tough, he seems to be the type of man who gets going by doubling down on the obnoxious behavior. If there were any tears, however, he was crying in his beer. It’s been widely reported in Japan that Mr. and Mrs. Kan console themselves of an evening by popping open another Tall Boy and reminding each other that poll numbers can’t fall below zero.
People often cite the Abraham Lincoln observation that a politician can’t fool all of the people all of the time. But in the clause preceding that one, Lincoln also observed that a pol could fool some of the people all of the time.
In Japan, that category seems to be about 25% of the population.
Here’s one more — the Sankei/Fuji poll also offered a list of names and asked the survey group who among them would make a suitable prime minister. None of those on the list managed to reach double digits, which is not surprising considering the composition of the rack of empty suits nearest the top of the greasy pole. There were rumors a month or so ago that the Sengoku wing of the party was promoting Finance Minister Noda Yoshihiko for the job. Only 1.8% of the respondents liked the cut of his jib.
For several years after he left office, Koizumi Jun’ichiro often received the highest ranking in similar polls. That shouldn’t be surprising either, and it wasn’t solely because of his conduct in office. Japanese prime ministers are usually selected by the other Nagata-cho hacks without the input of the public. Mr. Koizumi was chosen because the LDP was desperate and allowed the party rank and file throughout the country to vote in that election for party president.
In other words, he was the closest the Japanese have come of late to a prime minister who was The People’s Choice. But the politicos aren’t about to make that mistake again. Mr. Koizumi and his government slashed the budget deficit, unloosened the chokehold of non-performing debt on the nation’s banks without causing a financial crash, called Kim Jong-il’s bluff on the Japanese abductees and won, and set Japan Post on the course to privatization.
Of course that alarmed the flybaits of the political class. Not only did all that competence make them look bad, it showed everyone with the eyes to see just how bad they really are.
In addition, Mr. Koizumi wasn’t a social democrat and tended to favor small government, deregulation, and privatization.
And of course that alarmed the flybaits of the media class.
What you say?