Three polls conducted after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership team on August 3 show that while the cabinet did not receive a bump in support after the reshuffle, the public generally approves of Abe’s decisions.
Polls showed especially strong support for Abe’s decision to retain most of the cabinet’s senior members, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki. The Yomiuri Shimbun, for example, found 53% approved of the decision to retain key personnel, with only 28% opposed. However, the Mainichi Shimbun found that citizens do not expect more from the new cabinet: 59% said that the reshuffle had no effect on their expectations for the Abe government.
Meanwhile, Yomiuri found a plurality (41%) in favor of one of the reshuffle’s more consequential changes, Abe’s decision to replace Sadakazu Tanigaki—who suffered a spinal injury in a July bicycle accident—with Toshihiro Nikai as LDP secretary-general. Nikai is a vocal proponent of “pump priming” fiscal policy and helped push the size of the Abe cabinet’s newly announced stimulus package to roughly ¥28 trillion; his appointment helps cement the administration’s embrace of expansionary fiscal policy. Kyodo News found that respondents supported the changes to the LDP leadership more generally, with 41% in favor and 34% opposed.
By appointing her to the defense ministry, Abe hopes to bolster Tomomi Inada’s credentials for a leadership run.
The public was less supportive, however, of the appointment of Tomomi Inada as defense minister. Inada, an outspoken historical revisionist who has repeatedly questioned the postwar Tokyo Tribunal’s “version” of history, is closely allied with Abe and is thought to be favored as Abe’s successor. By appointing her to the defense ministry, Abe hopes to bolster Inada’s credentials for a leadership run, since she is both relatively junior (with only four elections to the Diet) and relatively inexperienced compared with other potential contenders. However, only 32% of Yomiuri’s respondents approved of her appointment, compared with 41% who disapproved.
Finally, the new polls show widespread skepticism about a burgeoning discussion within the LDP—of which Nikai is a major proponent—to change the party’s rules to enable Abe to serve past the end of his term as LDP president in September 2018. Both Mainichi and Kyodo News recorded nearly identical results when they asked whether they favored extending Abe’s term: 53% and 52.5% respectively said they did not think it was necessary.