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: Cabinet approval continues to soften in latest polls
Two recent polls show that the Japanese cabinet’s approval is once again in what can be described as a “softening” cycle. New polls by the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun both showed headline approval falling. In the case of Yomiuri, the fall was slight, 52% to 49%. Mainichi recorded a sharper fall: the cabinet’s approval fell nine points to 42% and its disapproval rose eight points to 38%.
But these polls do not suggest a fundamental shift in the public’s thinking about the Abe government. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s support continues to depend on the belief that his government has brought stability, even though it has pursued policies that the public does not support. This latest round of polling shows that the prime minister remains on the wrong side of public opinion on some his top policy priorities. The public does not support:
• Abe’s determination to revise the constitution (Yomiuri: 37% approval, 52% disapproval)
• Last year’s collective self-defense laws (Yomiuri: 38% approval, 47% disapproval; Mainichi: 37% approval, 49% disapproval);
• or Abenomics (Yomiuri: 39% approval, 47% disapproval).
Significantly, the one policy that polled well was the government’s decision to suspend work on the Futenma replacement facility at Henoko, Okinawa pending negotiations with the Okinawan prefectural government. Yomiuri found 69% support for the government’s decision, and Mainichi found 59% support. In other words, the Abe administration received the strongest support for a decision to abandon, albeit temporarily, a long-standing position.[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The one policy that polled well was the government’s decision to suspend work on the Futenma replacement facility at Henoko, Okinawa pending negotiations with the Okinawan prefectural government… In other words, the Abe administration received the strongest support for a decision to abandon, albeit temporarily, a long-standing position.[/perfectpullquote]
Whether this will hurt the administration in the forthcoming House of Councillors (HOC) elections – and the mooted snap election – is unclear. On the one hand, the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) support continues to dwarf the opposition’s: 38% of respondents in Yomiuri’s poll said they would vote for the LDP in proportional representation (PR) voting in the HOC elections, compared with 15% who said they would vote for the new party that will form from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP).[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Yomiuri’s poll in particular suggests that there is still time for the opposition to make headway against the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition. [/perfectpullquote]
On the other hand, Yomiuri’s poll in particular suggests that there is still time for the opposition to make headway against the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition. First, the poll actually found voters are divided on whether they want the government to retain its upper house majority. 43% said it would be good if it did, but 45% said it would not be good. Second, the public is favorable towards cooperation between opposition parties to nominate candidates in the HOC elections, with 49% viewing it favorably and 31% viewing it as unnecessary. This makes up for the fact that voters are not enthusiastic about the DPJ-JIP merger, with only 31% optimistic about the merger and 60% not optimistic. Finally, with 23% of the electorate still undecided for PR voting, there is still a portion of the electorate that might be amenable to a unified opposition pitch in the months leading up to the elections. The opposition bloc will still struggle to pick up enough seats to deprive the coalition of a majority, but it seems likely that it will at least be able to prevent the government from picking up enough seats to achieve an HOC supermajority, which is necessary if Abe is going to realize his goal of constitutional revision.