Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet entered the “danger zone” Sunday after a survey said public support for his ministers fell to 29 percent over the weekend — the lowest since he took office in September.
The number is a 6.8 point drop from the previous survey taken in mid-January.
The telephone poll, conducted by Kyodo News, also indicated the public is deeply divided over the two-stage plan to double the consumption tax to 10 percent in October 2015, with 50.6 percent opposed and 48.3 percent in favor.
The Cabinet’s disapproval rating, meanwhile, stood at 55.2 percent, up 7.4 points.
A Cabinet is considered to be in the danger zone when its support rating falls below 30 percent. Leaders whose ratings are consistently below this line usually reshuffle their ministers or try other tactics to bolster support for the Cabinet.
The nationwide random telephone survey of eligible voters was conducted Saturday and Sunday after the Cabinet adopted an outline of social security and tax reforms, including the sales tax hike, on Friday. The team aims to submit related legislation to the Diet next month.
Asked what the most desirable timing for a House of Representatives election would be, 43.7 percent said summer 2013, when the terms of the current Lower House members are to expire. This would mean a double election with the House of Councilors.
While 29.6 percent said they would rather have an earlier election held by June, 19.2 percent opted for sometime after July.
As for other issues, 68.5 percent of respondents said they do not expect much from the new party envisioned by People’s New Party chief Shizuka Kamei, compared with 25.6 percent who do.
Lawmakers have been slow to support the envisioned party — which would likely be headed by outspoken Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and used to offer a “third axis” to sway the balance of power between the ruling and opposition camps — due to skepticism that Kamei, who opposes the tax hike, and Ishihara, a proponent, will be able to coexist.
But 61.2 percent of the respondents said they expect a regional political group led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to make inroads into national politics, while 32.8 percent do not.
The Hashimoto-led group compiled an outline of policy promises last week for the next House of Representatives election, including proposals to abolish the House of Councilors and elect the prime minister through a popular vote.
On the issue of universities shifting the start of their academic years from April to fall, an idea being considered by the University of Tokyo and other public universities, 41.4 percent, the largest group of respondents, said it would be better to give students a choice of both spring and fall enrollment.