Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sōkagakkai Members Lie and Other Odds and Ends from the Latest Public Opinion Polls

Yomiuri releases its latest public opinion poll (taken 10-11 November) and the headline is: Majority favor refueling mission for first time(English version); 給油継続「賛成」51%、の過半数…読売調査Japanese version. I’ll get to that later, but what caught my eye was this:

Q. Which party do you support now? Name one.

A. … New Kōmeitō: 2.7% …

Now the NK regularly pulls in 8 million votes, give or take a few hundred thousand. That’s about 8% of the adult population, and there can’t be that many non-Sōkagakkai members who vote for the NK and vice versa. (Why vote NK when you can vote for the real thing?) So there must be a lot of Sōkagakkaimembers lying about their choices or disproportionately refusing to respond. For the poll, as usual, 3,000 randomly sampled eligible voters (60.33% response rate; par for the course) were interviewed directly. It appears that many people still do not want to reveal their affiliation with that lay Nichiren sect.

Turning to the big picture, the support numbers for the LDP (34.3%, down from 37.8%), DPJ (22.5%, up from 18.0%), and No Preference (36.0%) (as well as the 60.3% response rate) reaffirm the basic electoral framework: support base among active voters for the LDP hovering around the mid-thirties and the DPJ around the low twenties, with the swing vote in the mid-thirties. Put the real NK supporters on top of the LDP base, and you can see that the DPJ has a huge task ahead if it is to topple the ruling coalition in any Lower House election. Since the DPJ party platform is more a matter of not being the LDP than the result of any meaningful ideological distinctions (which is why it manages to swing wildly on, for example, national security issues without falling apart), another massive leadership failure of Abe administration proportions is needed to pull off it off. It is no wonder that Ichiro Ozawa has scaled back DPJ ambitions for the next Lower House election to what he calls the “third best strategy”, i.e. winning more seats than the LDP.

Support for the Fukuda Cabinet has dropped from 59.1% to 52.2%. This is in marked contrast to the FNN-Sankei poll (10,11 November; headlined内閣支持率41・1%に急落 世論調査 Cabinet Support Rate Suddenly Drops to 41.1% - note the contrast with the Yomiuri headline), where it registered an even more precipitous fall from 55.3% to 41.1%. I have no way of proving it, but I think that this difference has everything to do with Yomiuri’s strong support for the Grand Coalition (though it could not thoroughly convince the public that it was a good thing) and Sankei’s more skeptical approach to the issue and its generally more hawkish views (in contrast to those of Prime Minister Fukuda himself). Sampling may be random, but the response definitely is not, and the media doing the polling is responsible for that.

On the OEF-MIO refueling resumption bill, despite the controversy over allegations that the fuel oil was diverted to the Iraqi War, not to mention the ongoing scandal at the Ministry of Defense over bribery/procurement suspicions, both polls recorded small gains for the ruling coalition, giving majority support (Yomiuri 50.6%, Sankei 51.8%) for resumption, though substantial opposition remained (Yomiuri 40.3%, Sankei 38.1%). I believe that this confirms my earlier assumptions that the electorate has more or less collectively made up its mind on the issue, and that talk from the LDP for a 60%/two-thirds majority for a supermajority override vote and the DPJ that a Lower House override vote plus an upper House censure motion equals snap election is just that: talk.


Ken Y-N said...

there can’t be that many non-Sōkagakkai members who vote for the NK

Err, are you really not aware that come every election, it is the duty of the SG members to ask as many of their friends as possible to vote for NK.

I do agree, though, that there may also be some aspect of lying to the interviewers.

Jun Okumura said...

Ken Y-N:

Your comment makes a very good point, about which, by the way, the same can be said of the actions of Communist Party members. And I am sure that there are non-Sōkagakkai members who vote Kōmeito only because their friends beg them to*. If fact, there appear to be attempts to use poll results to undercut official Gakkai claims of an 8 million-strong household membership. (On the other hand, if the Gakkai claims are close to the truth, it means that there are a substantial number of individual members who do not cast their vote for Daisaku Ikeda’s favorite party.) But how many of them actually ask these days? And how effective are they? Are large portions of the Gakkai rank and file so eager to brave potential stress on their friendships and are so persuasive that they consistently bring in proportionately far more floaters, i.e. voters with little or no party preference, than other established parties do?

I vaguely remember a time when the (old?) Kōmeitō made a conscious attempt to broaden its appeal to the non-Gakkai public by, most prominently, seeking out non-Gakkai members to stand for election under its banner. Those attempts have largely been abandoned; instead, the party has evolved into what looks increasingly like the Gakkai wing of the LDP. There are now few incentives for non-Gakkai floaters to vote New Kōmeitō. Come to think of it, the hard-sell proselytizing days of Sōkagakkai are also a thing of the distant past.

So, until I see other evidence that Gakkai members are brave enough, effective enough to consistently bring in more than twice the number that actually profess support for New Kōmeitō, I’ll stick by my comment that:

there can’t be that many non-Sōkagakkai members who vote for the NK.

By the way, that's a cool blog you have there. I have great respect for all independent, fact-heavy efforts on the Internet, and it extends to yours.

* non-Gakkai anecdote: I was in high school when comedians began entering national politics. A friend of mine boasted that he had help elect Yokoyama Nokku (who much later became Osaka Governor) to the Diet by telling his grandmother, who would do anything that he said, to vote for him. So, yes, it sometimes works.