The Japan Political Pulse aggregates major opinion polls conducted by Japanese media outlets in order to provide a more accurate picture of the Abe government’s public approval rating. In addition to aggregating multiple polls, Sasakawa USA’s fellows also will provide occasional commentary on noteworthy data points in recent surveys. Click here to view the full JPP chart.
Government support remains stable despite doubts about economic policies
In the most recent public opinion polls, support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet cooled off slightly after enjoying a surprising bump following the January 28 resignation of Economic Revitalization Minister Amari Akira, a close ally of the prime minister and a leading architect of Abenomics. In Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun polls conducted February 13-14, the cabinet’s approval ratings fell to 40% and 52%, respectively. When aggregated with an NHK poll conducted February 5-8 — the only other poll published in the last ten days — the government’s approval and disapproval ratings average out to 45.07% and 36.82%, respectively.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]This latest round of polling reinforces the notion that the government’s approval ratings do not necessarily depend on support for its policies or for the prime minister himself but rather on public appreciation of the cabinet’s stability.[/perfectpullquote]
This latest round of polling reinforces the notion that the government’s approval ratings do not necessarily depend on support for its policies or for the prime minister himself but rather on public appreciation of the cabinet’s stability. The Yomiuri poll, for example, found that 42% of respondents who said they supported the government said they did so because it is “better than previous cabinets.” The second-most-popular choice, “the prime minister’s leadership abilities,” was selected by only 18% of supporters. This is consistent with the NHK poll’s findings, in which the main factor in support for the government was “seems better than alternative cabinets” (40% of supporters) as opposed to “it has the ability to get things done” (23%) or “it’s a cabinet formed by the party I support” (14%). The most popular choice among supporters (42%) in the Asahi poll, “the policy dimension,” may appear to undercut these other findings, but Asahi only gives respondents four options that are not as detailed as Yomiuri’s poll.
Opposition to the government’s policies, however, is overwhelmingly the main driver of the government’s disapproval ratings. In the NHK poll 42% identified the government’s policies as the reason for their disapproval. The equivalent figures in the Yomiuri and Asahi polls are 29% and 58% respectively, which was the most popular response in both cases.
The latest polling data on the administration’s economic policies illustrates that its approval ratings are stable in spite of, not because of, public attitudes regarding Abenomics. Yomiuri found that only 39% of respondents approve of the government’s economic policies, compared with 44% who disapproved. Meanwhile, 77% say that they have not “personally felt” economic recovery since the start of the Abe government in December 2012, compared with only 16% who say they have. Asahi’s poll found even weaker support for Abenomics: only 32% said they were hopeful that it could achieve growth, compared with 49% who said they were not. Asahi also found that 61% of respondents said they were not hopeful regarding the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) recently announced negative interest rate policy (NIRP), which went into effect on February 16.[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The latest polling data on the administration’s economic policies illustrates that its approval ratings are stable in spite of, not because of, public attitudes regarding Abenomics.[/perfectpullquote]
But not only has disenchantment with Abenomics not harmed the government’s support, it has thus far also not affected the outlook for the House of Councillors (HOC) elections that will be held in July. When asked by Asahi who they would support in proportional representation voting in the elections, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) retains an overwhelming lead with 37% support, compared to 16% for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), 7% for the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and 2% for the Japan Innovation Party (JIP). The equivalent numbers in the Yomuiri poll were 40% for the LDP, 12% for the DPJ, 4% for the JCP, and 1% for the JIP. While it is possible that these figures could shift as economic conditions change and the opposition parties finalize their nominations, it seems unlikely that the HOC elections will be characterized by backlash against the ruling coalition.