The Cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi continues to enjoy better than 85 percent support among voters, and his appeal even lifted the LDP above the 40 percent support line for the first time in almost two years, according to a Kyodo News poll released Wednesday.

The support rate for the Cabinet stood at 85.4 percent, just a hair under the 86.3 percent registered in a telephone poll conducted by Kyodo the day after it was formed April 26.

The disapproval rate, however, edged up from 6 percent to 8.8 percent.

The poll was conducted Saturday and Sunday on 1,961 voters nationwide in face-to-face interviews.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which Koizumi heads, received support from 44.4 percent of respondents, up from 36.2 percent in April.

It marks the first time for the LDP to break the 40 percent level in 22 months and represents a jump from 27.9 percent support 11/2 months ago, during the death throes of the highly unpopular Yoshiro Mori Cabinet.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, drew support from 9.9 percent of the respondents, almost unchanged from 10 percent in the previous poll.

Voters apparently have high hopes for Koizumi’s pledge to implement structural reforms.

Among those who back him, the largest group, at 25.4 percent, gave as a reason their expectations for political reform. The second largest group, at 23 percent, said they trust the prime minister.

The third largest group, at 13.7 percent, said there is no one else to support.

Koizumi was almost as popular among supporters of opposition parties as he was among LDP backers, with 81 percent of DPJ supporters giving him the thumbs up.

Among those who support no political party, his support rate was 76.8 percent.

Among supporters of the Japanese Communist Party, the most bitter opponent of the ruling party, he won backing from 55.9 percent.

LDP supporters gave Koizumi an almost unanimous 95.8 percent support rate, while 86.4 percent of coalition partner New Komeito’s backers supported the Cabinet.

Among those who disapprove of Koizumi, the largest group, or 23.6 percent, said they dislike the coalition.

The New Conservative Party is the other coalition partner.

“We initially thought a high support rate (at the time of the Cabinet’s formation) could be a dream,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said. “But with the rate still running high, it is a reality.”

Cabinet support came in at a record high for face-to-face interviews conducted by Kyodo since 1964. The previous high was recorded by the Cabinet of Morihiro Hosokawa, which scored 79 percent in September 1993.

Koizumi’s strong support raises the possibility he will call for an election for the Lower House in late July to coincide with the already scheduled Upper House election.

On Tuesday, Koizumi told an Upper House Budget Committee meeting that “a (Lower House) election can take place at any time.”

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