Unaffiliated voters for the first time made up the largest group of Kyodo News pollees in a survey taken ahead of Sunday’s general election.

In a telephone poll conducted Friday to Sunday, 33.6 percent of respondents said they were uncommitted, up 3.7 percentage points from Kyodo’s survey prior to the October 1996 general election, according to results compiled Wednesday.

Uncommitted voters outnumbered supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in any Kyodo poll. The LDP topped the list in eight past surveys.

The latest survey is based on responses from 170,000 eligible voters. It aimed for a sample of opinions from each of the 300 single-seat constituencies and 11 proportional representation blocs.

The support rate for the LDP remained about the same as four years ago at 33.5 percent, while that for the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, rose 5.9 percentage points to 9.6 percent, followed by New Komeito’s at 4.2 percent.

The Japanese Communist Party got 4.1 percent, slightly more than in 1996, while the Social Democratic Party, whose popularity has been on the decline, gained 3.9 percent. The Liberal Party had 2.7 percent support, and the New Conservative Party 0.3 percent.

New Komeito and the NCP are the LDP’s coalition partners.

In the proportional representation blocs, uncommitted voters are most prevalent in Tokai at 39.5 percent, with the rate surpassing the average in parts of eastern and central Japan.

The LDP gained more than 30 percent backing in all but two of the 11 districts, with a high of 42.1 percent supporting the party in Chugoku. The rate was less than 30 percent in Tokyo and Kinki.

The DPJ saw its popularity in Hokkaido grow 7.5 percentage points from the previous polls to 16.9 percent, and its support rate surpassed the national average in the Minamikanto (southern Kanto) and Tokai regions. Minamikanto covers Chiba, Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures.

By prefecture, Shizuoka had the most nonaligned voters at 46.1 percent, followed by Aichi at 41.5 percent and Nagano with 41.2 percent.

Respondents not supporting any party more than doubled to 38.6 percent in Okinawa Prefecture and increased more than 10 percentage points in Tochigi, Niigata, Wakayama, Tokushima and Ehime prefectures.

The LDP garnered a 50.1 percent support rate in Fukui Prefecture and captured more than 30 percent backing in most prefectures. Its popularity was relatively low in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa prefectures.

The DPJ had more than 10 percent support in 13 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, Kanagawa, Nagano and Aichi.