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Nippon Ishin seen closing gap with front-runner LDP in latest election poll

Kyodo

A nationwide poll over the weekend showed Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) chasing the conservative Liberal Democratic Party but leading the ruling Democratic Party of Japan as the top choice for next month’s general election.

The results of the telephone poll conducted by Kyodo News and released Sunday reflect voter dissatisfaction with the nation’s two biggest parties.

Nippon Ishin, led by founder and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, merged with Ishihara’s Sunrise Party on Nov. 17 to form a “third force” against the LDP and DPJ.

According to the results, support for the LDP in the proportional representation section of the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election has dropped to 18.7 percent from 23.0 percent tallied in the previous survey from Nov. 17 to 18.

Support for Nippon Ishin meanwhile grew to 10.3 percent, improving on the 7.8 percent support rating it got when it was lumped in with Sunrise Party in the previous survey.

The DPJ slid to third place after support fell to 8.4 percent from 10.8 percent in the previous survey.

The survey was conducted using calls made to telephone numbers picked at random by computer. Of the 1,776 eligible voters reached, 1,230 responded.

The poll is the second of its kind since Prime Minister and DPJ chief Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the Lower House on Nov. 16. Kyodo will conduct three more to track voter preferences ahead of the election.

Asked who is most suitable to be prime minister, 33.9 percent of the respondents said LDP chief Shinzo Abe and 30.0 percent said Noda.

In the first survey, 32.1 percent favored Noda and 35.0 percent backed Abe.

In the proportional representation section, support for New Komeito stood at 3.8 percent, followed by Your Party with 2.8 percent, and the Japanese Communist Party and Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First) both drawing 2.2 percent.

For single-seat constituencies, 19.8 percent backed LDP candidates, 9.5 percent Nippon Ishin candidates and 8.8 percent DPJ candidates.

More telling, however, was who independent voters backed when asked which party they would support if they had to choose. About 23 percent went with the LDP, followed by 13.9 percent for Nippon Ishin and 12.4 percent for the DPJ.

The support rating for Noda’s Cabinet, meanwhile, stood at 23.9 percent, down slightly from the 24.3 percent it received in the previous survey.

Asked to identify the most critical issues in the election, 28.7 percent said social security, including pensions and health care, while 28.6 percent highlighted employment and economic measures.

According to the survey, 96.5 percent of the respondents said they will “definitely” or “do their best” to vote.