Election survey: DPJ catching up to LDP; most voters undecided

November 17, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan narrowed the gap in support with the front-running Liberal Democratic Party, but unaffiliated voters could well determine the outcome of the Dec. 16 election, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Twenty-three percent of the respondents said they would vote for the main opposition LDP in the proportional representation portion of the Lower House election, compared with 16 percent for the DPJ, according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted on Nov. 15 and 16.

In the previous poll conducted on Nov. 10-11, just days before Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's surprise announcement that he would dissolve the Lower House, 29 percent chose the LDP while 12 percent picked the DPJ.

Candidates run for 300 Lower House seats in single-seat constituencies across the nation and 180 proportionally represented seats in 11 regional blocks.

The support rating for the DPJ inched up to 13 percent from 12 percent in the previous survey, while the LDP’s support rating dropped from 19 percent to 16 percent.

No political party has generated much momentum so far ahead of the election, meaning the behavior of the large numbers of unaffiliated voters could be a swing factor.

Sixty percent of the respondents said they supported no particular party or declined to answer the question. And as many as 44 percent said they either haven't decided which party to vote for in the proportional representation section or withheld their response.

Four percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Japan Restoration Party, 3 percent picked LDP ally New Komeito, and 2 percent each choose the Japanese Communist Party, Your Party and the Sunrise Party in the proportional representation section, according to the survey.

The People's Life First party, led by former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, and the Social Democratic Party were both picked by 1 percent of the respondents.

The Japan Restoration Party, led by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, is expected to merge with the Sunrise Party, founded on Nov. 13 by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.

Asked which leader of the two major parties would be better suited as prime minister, 31 percent picked Noda and 33 percent chose LDP President Shinzo Abe.

Abe, a former prime minister, was also the preferred choice in two opinion polls conducted by The Asahi Shimbun in October, but Noda narrowed the gap in the latest survey.

Still, many of the respondents chose neither Noda nor Abe or declined to answer.

Unaffiliated voters accounted for only 29 percent of the respondents in an Asahi Shimbun survey held about one month before the last Lower House election in 2009. In that survey, 39 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the DPJ, compared with 22 percent for the LDP.

The DPJ won that election in a landslide.

Asked how they rated the achievements of the DPJ-led government since then, only 1 percent of the respondents said they rate them "highly," and 29 percent said the achievements were good "to a certain extent." However, 46 percent said they "don't appreciate the achievements very much" and 22 percent said they "don't appreciate them at all."

The approval rating for the Noda Cabinet was 19 percent, while the disapproval rating was 63 percent, similar to 18 percent and 64 percent, respectively, in the previous survey.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori had a support rating of only 19 percent immediately before the Lower House election in 2000. Mori's LDP-led government clung to power, but the party lost considerable strength in the Diet chamber.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso also had a meager 19-percent support rating before the 2009 Lower House election, leading the DPJ to wrest government control from the LDP.

Although those precedents do not favor the chances of Noda and the DPJ, the LDP under Abe has not seen a surge in public support.

The prospects are also not that rosy for parties that have called themselves a "third political force" that offers a viable alternative to the DPJ and the LDP.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents said they wanted these smaller parties to gain influence in the Diet following the election. But less than 20 percent of them said they would actually vote for these parties in the proportional representation portion.

The Asahi Shimbun received valid responses from 862 eligible voters, or 53 percent of those contacted, in the latest survey.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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