Japan from the inside out

Poll results

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 29, 2012

THE Shinhodo 2001 poll has a small sample size and is conducted only in Tokyo, so everyone knows that the numbers aren’t ironclad. Nevertheless, politicians are said to find the results a useful guide to assessing the public mood.

The most recent survey was taken on Thursday and released on Sunday. Here are the answers that people are looking at.

* Which party will you cast your vote for in the proportional representation round of the next election?

1. Democratic Party (Ruling party): 8.2%
2. Liberal Democratic Party: 28.2%
3. Putting People First Party (Ozawa Ichiro party): 1.8%
4. Japan Restoration Party (Hashimoto Toru party): 3.4%
5. Your Party (first national reform party): 3.8%
6. Don’t know: 43.6

The Jiji poll regularly has the non-affiliated group at more than 50%, and that continues to be the most important overall factor in Japanese politics. Whenever the next election will be held, the DPJ is facing a repudiation of their performance which will probably exceed that for the LDP in 2009.

The numbers for Mr. Hashimoto would probably be higher in the Kansai region. That demonstrates one of the problems he faces — translating his regional popularity nationwide.

It would seem that Ozawa Ichiro’s primary function now is filling space in newspapers.

* Do you support the Noda Cabinet?

Yes: 19.0%
No: 75.6%
Other: 5.4%

These numbers are as ugly as those for Hatoyama Yukio in the spring of 2010. The Japanese system is such that political parties can maintain control with approval ratings at 40+. The pols start to get edgy when it falls into the 30s, and they start thinking about life after the Cabinet in the 20s.

That said, it’s not easy to explain why Noda Yoshihiko’s numbers are this bad. The consumption tax increase was unpopular, but that was discounted months ago. Opposition to his restart of a few nuclear power plants is probably a factor, but that would not explain the corresponding rise in support for the LDP. They aren’t the ones clamoring to shut down nuclear power for good. His government’s response to both China and South Korea this summer has been measured and firm, unlike that of his predecessor, Kan Naoto.

I can only think the public is fed up with the idea of a DPJ government in general, rather than any one specific issue.

* What are your expectations for the new party to be formed by Tokyo Metro District Gov. Ishihara Shintaro?

Positive: 56.0%
Negative: 39.0%
Don’t know: 5.0%

This is puzzling — Mr. Ishihara is 80 years old and cranky. He is not the sort of man to attract voters half his age and younger. Then again, this survey was conducted in Tokyo, which is his base. But because his response to South Korea and China would be firmer still, it’s possible that the public realizes Obsequious Japan is no longer going to work. Standing up for the country — which is not the same as nationalism — is a winner with the public.

* What are your expectations for a possible alliance between Ishihara Shintaro and Hashimoto Toru?

Positive: 51%
Negative: 44%
Don’t know: 4.6%

This is more puzzling, even considering that the numbers for Mr. Hashimoto’s party have been sliding since late summer. (I suspect that might be due to concerns about the problems with China and South Korea, and the Osaka mayor’s inexperience in foreign affairs, rather than anything he did.) Evidently, a few folks in Tokyo like their Ishihara straight and not blended.

* When do you think the lower house should be dissolved and an election held?

This year: 64.2%
Next year: 32.2%
Don’t 3.6%

The impatience is understandable, but as a practical matter, it might be better to hold a double election with the upper house vote scheduled for next summer. That might create a mandate and give a party or an alliance a better chance of passing legislation. The winners of a lower house election now will still have to deal with upper house as it’s presently constituted until next year. Another lower house election would probably be needed, so holding one now might not accomplish much.

Whatever the schedule, Japan’s next election (or series of elections) is likely to be as transformative for this country than the one about to be held in the United States.

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