The approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has hit a record low since he came into power last September. A telephone poll at the beginning of this month by Kyodo News shows that the support rate has sunk to 35.8 percent, a drop of 11.8 points from mid-May and a big slide from the 65 percent the Cabinet enjoyed when it was inaugurated. The disapproval rating rose by 10.5 points to 48.7 percent, a record high.

The poll results show that rather than questionable behavior or stupid statements by Cabinet members, it is Mr. Abe’s political leadership itself that is responsible for the Cabinet’s drop in popularity. The prime minister should pay attention to the fact that among those who disapprove of his Cabinet, the largest grouping 31.4 percent — up 12.2 points from the previous poll — think that Mr. Abe displays no leadership.

It is logical to think that Mr. Abe’s defense of farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who was criticized for improper handling of political fund records before he killed himself, and the improper handling of pension-premium payment records at the Social Insurance Agency have affected the prime minister’s popularity.

According to the poll, 69.5 percent think Mr. Abe has not taken responsibility as the person who appointed Mr. Matsuoka to a Cabinet post; 71.8 percent question Mr. Abe’s seriousness about the issue of politics and money; and 52.5 percent disapprove of the government’s and the ruling coalition’s handling of two pension-related bills in the Diet.

The problem of pension-premium payments records surfaced in February, but the government and the ruling coalition did not take prompt action. After some time, they frantically railroaded the two bills through the Lower House. This happened despite Mr. Abe’s statement that the pension issue should not be treated as a “tool for political warfare.”

Mr. Abe appears to believe that using strong-arm Diet tactics is a sign of political leadership. He should realize that the most important task is to present carefully thought-out measures designed to dispel people’s worry about the pension system.

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