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.
Voters not yet convinced by opposition party maneuvers, DPJ-JIP merger
The announcement that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and Japan Innovation Party (JIP) will form a new party in March—and a pledge by the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) to field fewer candidates in single-member districts in this summer’s upper house elections—suggests that Japan’s opposition parties are increasingly determined to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political dominance.
However, while closer coordination is indispensable if opposition parties are going to reduce the government’s majority in both the upper house elections and the snap lower house election expected to be held sometime this year, opinion polls suggest that voters are not yet enthusiastic about opposition coordination.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Several polls have found that voters expect little from the DPJ-JIP merger … These data points suggest that the re-launch of the DPJ under a new name—which may be only slightly different from the old name—will not result in a burst of enthusiasm for the party ahead of the July elections. [/perfectpullquote]
Several polls have found that voters expect little from the DPJ-JIP merger. Kyodo News found only 20.9% respondents believed the merger to be preferable to the status quo. The most recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll asked respondents whether they were hopeful about the planned merger. Only 21% said they were; 67% said they were not. The Asahi Shimbun poll conducted simultaneously showed a similar lack of enthusiasm: only 22% thought it would be good for the two parties to create a new party, compared with 49% who thought the current situation was satisfactory. NHK’s February poll found only 4% of respondents were “extremely hopeful” and 17% “to some extent hopeful” about the merger, compared with 39% and 34% who were “not very” or “not at all” hopeful. These data points suggest that the re-launch of the DPJ under a new name—which may be only slightly different from the old name—will not result in a burst of enthusiasm for the party ahead of the July elections. Electoral cooperation among opposition parties is more popular with voters, favored by 39% when Nikkei asked respondents last month how the opposition parties should approach the upper house elections.
But tracking polls, which have begun asking voters which party they intend to support in proportional representation (PR) voting in July, show that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continues to enjoy a substantial lead over its rivals. In nearly every major poll that asked this question this month, the LDP’s likely support in PR voting fell between 35% and 40%: 36.6% in Jiji, 40% in Yomiuri, 37% in Asahi, and 36% in Mainichi. The one exception was Kyodo, in which the LDP’s support was only 33.7%. By comparison, the DPJ is barely at double-digit levels of support, ranging from 16% and 12% in Asahi and Yomiuri to 9.9% in Kyodo. If the LDP is able to retain these levels of support in July, it could surpass its record for PR vote share, 38.57% in the 2001 upper house elections.
Working in the DPJ’s favor is time. After all, when the DPJ won its landmark victory in the 2007 upper house elections, as late as mid-May it trailed the LDP in PR polling 28% to 21% before eventually defeating the LDP 39.48% to 28.08% in PR voting. With polls showing roughly a quarter of voters are undecided, the new-look DPJ still has time to increase its support ahead of the elections. The party’s recent line of questioning in the Diet suggests that it will try to use economic volatility and doubts about the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy—as well as opposition to national security reforms passed last year, per its agreement with the JCP—in hopes of building its support.