National / Politics

Poll finds 63% baffled by Abe's move to dissolve Lower House

Kyodo

More than 60 percent of the voting public does not support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election on Dec. 14, a poll said Thursday.

Roughly a quarter of the respondents said they would vote for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party anyway, according to the Kyodo News survey, which was conducted after he announced his decision Tuesday.

With both houses of the Diet controlled by the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition, a bare 51.4 percent majority of the respondents said they wanted to see a more balanced political landscape emerge between the ruling and opposition camps.

Abe said Tuesday he will postpone the second stage of the consumption tax hike, originally scheduled for October 2015, because the economy is not strong enough to double it to 10 percent yet. The levy was raised to 8 percent from 5 percent in April.

To gauge voter support for his unorthodox “Abenomics” program, the prime minister announced that he will dissolve the House of Representatives on Friday. Abenomics, aimed at ending Japan’s chronic deflation, is based on a radical monetary easing program, the usual fiscal stimulus and vows to effect growth-oriented structural reforms.

The opposition parties have criticized Abe’s drive to seek a mandate as groundless and reject the argument that he needs to go to the people because he made “a serious decision” that will affect their lives and the economy.

In the survey, conducted by telephone on Wednesday and Thursday, 63.1 percent of the respondents said they cannot understand Abe’s quest for a mandate and 30.5 percent said they support it.

The approval rating for Abe’s Cabinet has tumbled to 47.4 percent and its disapproval rating to 44.1 percent.

Yet when asked which party they would vote for in the proportional representation portion of the election, the LDP ranked first at 25.3 percent.

The opposition-leading Democratic Party of Japan came second with 9.4 percent, followed by 4.6 percent for Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner.

The Japanese Communist Party was cited by 4.2 percent and Japan Innovation Party by 3.1 percent, according to the survey.

The poll said the other minor opposition parties are still struggling, with the Social Democratic Party receiving just 0.9 percent support and the People’s Life Party 0.3 percent. A total of 44.4 percent said they are undecided.

The ruling parties held a combined 325 seats in the 480-seat Lower House as of Nov. 11.

On the controversial issues of amending the pacifist Constitution and postponing the second stage of the consumption tax hike by 18 months, the former produced a narrower divergence than the latter.

On the Constitution, 45.5 percent said they do not want the supreme code to be revised to remove Article 9’s ban on collective self-defense and 39.3 percent said they do.

On the tax hike, 65.4 percent backed the prime minister’s decision to delay the second stage, compared with 28.4 percent who opposed it.

The economy appears to be the highest priority for voters, because 34.8 percent said they would value economic policy in deciding which candidate or party to vote for. This was followed by 26.1 percent who prioritized social security and 10.1 percent who were focused on Japan’s fiscal rehabilitation.

With much of the nation still trying to recover from the Fukushima disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, 7.7 percent put priority on nuclear power and energy policy. Another 4.7 percent chose security and diplomatic policy, while 3.7 percent selected regional revitalization — another economic area the Abe administration has recently focused on to woo voters disillusioned with Abenomics.

Overall, voters are less enthusiastic about the upcoming election because only 66.1 percent said they are interested in the polls “very much” or “to a certain degree,” compared with the 78.2 percent recorded in the 2012 race that allowed the LDP to return to power.

The survey was conducted by calling 1,746 randomly selected households with eligible voters and drew valid answers from 1,214 of them.