Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why Fewer Yomiuri Poll Responders Appreciate Surcharge Expiration... but the Real Battle Comes...

According to the Yomiuri poll, 56% of the responders said that the drop in gasoline prices due to the expiration of the surcharge was a good thing. That’s pretty high, but much lower than the 72% in the Asahi poll who said that the lower gasoline taxes were a good thing. They both ran random telephone polls, so it couldn’t have been the methodology. So was it the different terminology (Yomiuri=“gasoline prices”, Asahi=“gasoline taxes”)? Or could it have been… something else?

You be the judge; I’ll translate the questions for you.


Gasoline prices will go down because the temporary rates [i.e. surcharge] for the gasoline tax and other taxes (other automobile fuels) expired, but national and local government budgets will face deficits, and there is confusion at service stations. Do you, or do you not, think that it was a good thing that gasoline prices went down?



Gasoline taxes will go down in April and beyond because the government parties and the opposition parties could not reach agreement with regard to gasoline taxes. Do you think that it is a good thing that the gasoline taxes will go down? Do you think that it is not a good thing?


Seriously, there are other differences in the results, but broadly speaking, they convey more or less the same message, which has remained relatively constant: The Japanese electorate overwhelmingly favors the expiration of the gasoline tax surcharge and the conversion of the revenue to the general budget, but it also wants the opposition to accept Prime Minister Fukuda’s offer of consultations. The political returns for the DPJ in terms of electoral support have been meager, though there is no uptick for the Fukuda administration either.

The real battle will come when the ruling coalition finally gets serious with tax reform after the summer recess. Beginning with the 2007 Upper House election, the DPJ has basically been cutting trillion-yen checks to the public (most notably government funding for basic public pension, trillion-yen payoff to small-scale farmers, elimination of gasoline tax surcharge). If it can add up those figures and convince the public it knows how to pay for them, as well as draw down the enormous public debt overhang, it wins. It should be as simple as that. The DPJ has already exposed the existence of much government incompetence, negligence and waste, but the time has come to put together its case for a bicameral takeover.

Discrediting the status quo while waiting for the coalition to fall into yet another string of political blunders? That’s a strategy that relies too much on chance. And chances are, we’ll end up with the same-old, a weak government with a divided Diet for the next five years


Janne Morén said...

As you are no doubt alluding to, most of the difference probably rests on the fact that they really are asking different questions: Yomiuri is asking whether fiscal deficits and confusion are acceptable costs of a lower gasoline prices; while Asahi simply asks whether lower prices are good.

Either question is completely valid and relevant. But they really are different questions. If this is a typical difference between asahi and yomiuri polls then comparisons between them will always be rendered impossible.

Jun Okumura said...

Exactly. They are both valid, and in this case, they just happen to conveniently fit the editorial preferences of the two dailies.

To build on what I've suggested before, it would be interesting to analyze all the media polls from this and other angles and develop a proprietary poll designing technique, though I'm sure there are plenty of professionals who claim to have one of their own.