Japan from the inside out

The man in the Japanese street

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, June 3, 2012

THE Fukuoka City-based Nishinippon Shimbun conducted a questionnaire survey of opinions on political conditions from 17-22 May. The location of the survey, the persons surveyed, and the questions asked make the survey results essential reading for anyone interested in the mood of the Japanese electorate.

First, they limited the survey to those people who voted for the Liberal Democratic Party in the lower house election of 2005, and who also voted for the Democratic Party of Japan in the lower house election in 2009. In other words, these people voted to support the Koizumian reforms and Japan Post privatization, and to repudiate the LDP after the party had repudiated the work of Mr. Koizumi.

Thus, the survey focused on independent voters whose primary interest is in systemic reform, which was the primary issue in both of these elections. The DPJ victory had little, if anything, to do with the content of the party’s election manifesto other than their promise to implement real reform. The voters just as quickly repudiated the DPJ when they discovered that promise (and everything else they said) was nothing more than campaign shouting.

Two of the areas covered in the survey were the respondents’ current political preferences and their views of Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru and his One Osaka reform movement. It was therefore a quick and dirty indicator of what people in Kyushu’s largest city thought of the Osaka-based phenomenon.

One question asked what sort of government the respondents would like to see after the next election. Because this was a survey of 100 people, the absolute numbers also represent percentages. Here are the answers:

A new framework after a political reorganization: 49

A DPJ-led government: 4

An LDP-led government: 11

Don’t know: 29

Among the reasons cited by the people in the first group were: “There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between the DPJ and the LDP”, and “All (those two parties) do is try to trip each other up.”

Among the reasons cited by the people in the last group were: “There are no real politicians in Japan now,” and “I might not vote in the next election”.

Here are their answers to the question of which political party or group they supported:

None: 64

One Osaka: 12

DPJ: 6

LDP: 5

That tends to confirm the results of the Jiji news agency polling since the early 2000s that “non-aligned” is the default position for a majority of Japanese voters. (Jiji’s polls are conducted by their market research arm, and are considered more accurate than the other media polls, which use random digit dialing.) This group starts gravitating toward a party or candidates shortly before an election, and gradually reverts to their independent position after an election.

Finally, the survey asked whether they had positive expectations if One Osaka and Mr. Hashimoto were to establish a national presence. Of the 100 people surveyed, 74 answered yes.

A female office worker in her 30s gave a reason that would resonate in other areas of the country too:

“He’s a bit extreme, but nothing will change without an approach like that.”

Those opinions are of course subject to change at a moment’s notice. A male office worker in his 30s observed:

“It is not possible to make a judgment by looking at Mr. Hashimoto alone. I don’t know what One Osaka would do as an organization.”

To be sure, this poll was unscientific; the newspaper admits upfront it was conducted on the street.  But it doesn’t take science to realize that the super-sized political tsunami rolling towards Nagata-cho is going to turn the political careers of quite a few people into flotsam and jetsam.


The voice of the man in the street in Jamaica:

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