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An overwhelming majority of Japanese voters polled picked social security issues as a key factor in deciding on the candidates and political parties they will vote for in July’s House of Councillors election, according to a public opinion poll published Sunday.

With two replies allowed, social security — pension, healthcare, nursing care and welfare — was picked by 74.9 percent of the respondents, an increase of 23 percentage points from a similar poll conducted last December.

The jump apparently reflects the recent focus on public pensions following the revelation of blunders by a government agency in keeping track of data on a massive number of accounts.

The survey also found that 46.9 percent of the respondents expressed hope the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, will lose its majority in the upper chamber, compared with 43.6 percent who said they want the ruling parties to maintain their majority.

Regarding key factors for the upper house election, business climate, employment and economic disparities placed second at 38.7 percent, followed by 18.6 percent for constitutional amendment, a topic that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said should be a focal point in the upper house election.

Tax and fiscal reform came third at 17.5 percent, and education reform garnered 13.0 percent. Only 3.4 percent picked political ethics. Some analysts said the recent suicide of farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, allegedly mired in a political funds scandal, would heighten voter interest.

The results of the poll were published Sunday in a number of Japanese newspapers subscribing to Kyodo News. The survey, conducted through interviews on June 2 and 3, covered 3,000 voters ages 20 or older, of whom 1,858 or 61.9 percent responded. Men accounted for 48.0 percent and women 52.0 percent.

Asked about the coalition’s response in the event it fails to maintain a majority, the biggest group, 30.6 percent, expressed hope for dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election. Policy coordination with the opposition camp came second at 22.3 percent, a change in combination of ruling parties was third at 20.6 percent, followed by replacement of the prime minister at 18.5 percent.

A total of 90.1 percent said they will go to the polls, hitting almost the same level attained in a similar survey conducted in May 2001, a month after Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koizumi became premier and enjoyed booming popularity among voters.

Only 8.5 percent said they would not cast ballots.

On which political party they support, 42.6 percent of the respondents said the LDP, compared with 20.0 percent who said the Democratic Party of Japan, the country’s main opposition party. A total of 3.9 percent backed New Komeito, 3.3 percent the Japanese Communist Party, 1.5 percent the Social Democratic Party, 0.4 percent the People’s New Party, and 0.2 percent New Party Nippon.

Of the respondents who usually back a particular party, 50.8 percent said they had voted for parties or candidates of parties other than their favorite in the past, compared with 48.1 percent who said they did not do so.

But to a question about which party the voters would cast ballots for if the election were held now, 37.4 percent said the LDP or its candidates, followed by 22.4 percent for the DPJ, 4.1 percent for New Komeito, 3.4 percent for the JCP, and 1.4 percent for the SDP. A total of 19.4 percent replied they have no particular party to support, while 7.1 percent gave no answer.

The upper house election is expected to be held July 22 unless the current 150-day regular session of the Diet is extended sharply beyond the scheduled ending of June 23.

At stake are half of the 242 seats in the second chamber. The six-year term of office will expire July 28 for 121 upper house members — 73 from prefectural constituencies and 48 from the nationwide constituency under the proportional representation voting system where voters can cast ballots for a political party or a candidate backed by a party.

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