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.
JPP: Abe remains strong ahead of major decisions
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is entering a critical period in the life of his government. Over the next three months, he will have to determine how to rejuvenate an economy that seems stuck in neutral; decide whether to raise the consumption tax from 8% to 10% in April 2017 (which seems unlikely given slow growth); coordinate the agenda for the G7 summit that will be held at Ise-jima in May; and guide the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through the Diet. Meanwhile, his government will face electoral tests — first in by-elections in Hokkaido and Kyoto on April 24, and then in House of Councillors (HOC) elections that will likely be held on July 10, which could also be held concurrently with a snap House of Representatives (HOR) election.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is entering a critical period in the life of his government… The good news for [him] is that opinion polls suggest he is entering this period in a position of strength.[/perfectpullquote]
The good news for Prime Minister Abe is that opinion polls suggest he is entering this period in a position of strength. New polls from the Nikkei Shimbun and Kyodo News show the cabinet’s approval ratings holding steady at 46% and 48.4% respectively, and suggest that the public would support a change of direction in fiscal policy. Nikkei, for example, found that 61% of respondents opposed raising the consumption tax as planned, and 55% believe that additional fiscal stimulus is necessary. Kyodo, meanwhile, found that 64.6% of respondents oppose the tax hike, up from 50% in December. The public is still unhappy with Abenomics as a whole — 49% of Nikkei’s respondents did not approve — but it is apparent that the prime minister can count on public backing if he decides to abandon the commitment to achieve a primary fiscal surplus by FY2020 and embraces expansionary fiscal policy in order to boost near-term economic growth.
Also working in Abe’s favor is the failure of the newly launched Democratic Party (DP), the product of a merger between the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), to attract public support. Kyodo’s poll showed that the rebranded DP is polling at 10.5% for proportional representation voting in the HOC elections, virtually unchanged from before the DP’s launch and well behind the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) 38.1% support. Nikkei found that, on the whole, voters are skeptical of the DP, with 66% saying that they were not hopeful about the DP versus only 26% who said that they were hopeful. Even respondents who do not support the Abe government were skeptical, with 52% pessimistic and only 39% optimistic. With the DP struggling to appeal to voters, it is increasingly likely that Abe will call a snap election to be held either before July or as a double election with the HOC elections to cement LDP power.