Japan from the inside out

With friends like these…

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 16, 2010

EARLIER THIS WEEK I wrote that it would require an analyst of otherwordly insight, backed by extensive and detailed polling, to explain the reasons public support for the Kan Cabinet was as high as 44%. I added, “I suspect diminished expectations on the part of the electorate are a factor…Noam Chomsky’s…ideas about manufactured consent…might apply here. He holds that a false consent of the public is obtained by offering a choice of only hand-picked political options whose differences are apparent only in the degree of their unacceptability.”

A few days later, the news agency Jiji Press released the results of their own survey. Jiji might have the most accurate polling in Japan because they conduct targeted, in-person interviews rather than rely on RDD, or random digit dialing. They found the support and non-support percentages for the Cabinet to be identical at 39.2%, with the non-support totals five points lower than the other poll I cited. (They do not provide a margin of error.)

Of even greater interest were the reasons for the support offered by those people who still backed Mr. Kan. The three most frequently cited reasons were:

1. There’s no one else suitable (19.6%)

2. I trust the prime minister (8.8%)

3. It would be the same with anyone else. (6.4%)

In other words, more than a quarter of his sinking support comes from people who think, as the Japanese put it, neko yori mashi–it’s better than a cat, or in English, it’s better than nothing.

That might be enough to drive a politician to drink, if Mr. Kan hadn’t already gone down that road long ago.

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