Media exit polls show that a majority of those in their 20s or younger voted for the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, in Sunday’s Upper House election. Observers said the result doesn’t necessarily reflect their active support for the ruling coalition but rather their wish to stick to the status quo.
Sunday’s election was the first time 18- and 19-year-olds were given suffrage following electoral reform last year that was meant to shore up turnout among a generation notoriously indifferent to politics.
An exit poll by the Asahi Shimbun showed that 40 percent of teens who cast ballots Sunday voted for the LDP and 10 percent for Komeito under the proportional representation category. An exit poll conducted by Jiji Press found a similar result.
Support for the ruling coalition was even higher among voters in their 20s, of whom 43 percent backed the LDP and 9 percent Komeito, according to the Asahi poll.
The Asahi survey pointed to a gradual decline in support for the LDP-Komeito pair among older generations, with only 33 percent of those in their 60s, for example, voting for the LDP.
Ryosuke Nishida, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who is well-versed on youth participation in politics, attributed the youth support for the LDP to their instinctive penchant for the status quo.
This election’s new voters were in the middle of adolescence when Abe returned to power in 2012, which likely coincided with their budding interest in politics. The stability of the current administration has always dominated their perception of Japanese politics, Nishida pointed out.
“To them, the Abe administration is something that’s always been there,” he said.
This mild satisfaction with the LDP, coupled with the failure by the Democratic Party to present itself as a viable alternative, left them with no option but to choose the ruling party, Nishida said.
He added the LDP’s attempt to “copy” some of the signature DP campaign pledges that favor the young — such establishing a national scholarship program and combating “black” exploitative companies — further helped undercut any reason to vote for the opposition.
Such a view was echoed by 18-year-old Hiroto Shimazu, a Tokyo high school student who heads a group called Teen’s Rights Movement.
Together with fellow group members, Shimazu routinely hits the streets in Tokyo neighborhoods such as Shibuya and asks teenagers to vote for their favorite party in what is known as a mock election. He said many choose the LDP, but they appear to do so almost automatically, without taking any time to ponder a list of each party’s campaign pledges.
“It’s not like they’re deeply dissatisfied with their current life under the LDP leadership. So they are probably averse to some radical change taking place in their life,” he said.