Aso Cabinet enters opinion polls below 50%

Kyodo News

The public is more comfortable with Prime Minister Taro Aso than his Cabinet, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.

Aso’s newly inaugurated Cabinet received an approval rating of 48.6 percent in the poll — well below the 57.8 percent the first Cabinet formed by his predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda, drew last September.

The poll was conducted by telephone on 1,455 randomly selected people and drew responses from 1,028.

Aso was viewed as more fit to be prime minister than Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan. The leader of the main opposition party was favored by 29.4 percent compared with 53.9 for Aso, the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The disapproval rate for his Cabinet stood at 32.9 percent.

Asked which political party they would vote for if a general election were held, respondents were equally split between the LDP and the DPJ at 34.9 percent to 34.8 percent, respectively.

Aso was elected prime minister in the Diet on Wednesday and immediately formed his Cabinet. The LDP apparently hopes Aso’s popularity will provide it with a much-needed boost as it heads toward the general election, which Aso is expected to call in the coming months.

But the poll also said that 43.8 percent think a government led by the DPJ would be better than one led by the LDP. Those who favored an LDP-led government accounted for 38.1 percent.

By party, support for New Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, came to 5.7 percent, while the Japanese Communist Party drew 2.7 percent, the Social Democratic Party 1.2 percent, People’s New Party 0.4 percent, and New Party Nippon 0.2 percent.

Referring to newspaper polls showing similar support rates, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told an evening news conference Thursday that he thinks the Aso Cabinet got a passing grade.

“I hope (the approval rate) will go up further, but it is said that 50 percent is the minimum threshold in the case of approval and disapproval ratings.”

“Though it would be better if the approval rate was high, we are not in a situation where we need to be worried about it. We need to build public confidence by producing solid results,” he said.

As to the timing of the general election for the Lower House, expected to take place in a couple of months, about 69 percent of the respondents said Aso should call it after his administration proposes economic revitalization measures, while about 24 percent want the election held right away.

Separately, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said Thursday that Nov. 9 would be a good date to hold the general election.

He also said the DPJ will push for two days of debate on the supplementary budget in both chambers of the Diet, in light of the global financial turmoil and the rice and pension record scandals.