Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What Asahi Readers Tell Us Random-Digit-Dialing Poll Has to Say about Aso et al (and What to Make of It All)

Today’s Asahi (online) has the results of its Second Consecutive Public Opinion Poll (telephone) taken on October 11-12. Here are some numbers:
Aso Cabinet: support 42% (41%) not support 38% (42%)
Lower House proportional voting intent: LDP 32% (33%), DPJ 32% (34%)

October 4-5 poll numbers in parentheses
These numbers predictably are not as good for Aso/LDP as the Yomiuri ones. Still, an Asahi poll that actually gives a positive rating to the Aso Cabinet and has the LDP in a dead heat with the DPJ is a reminder not to bet against the LDP-New Komeito coalition maintaining a majority in the upcoming Lower House election.

The financial crisis and the damage it is doing to the real economy has not hurt the LDP. Instead, it has turned public attention away from the nation’s future—the DPJ manifesto’s main subject—and its past—the wear and tear from 53 years of LDP in power—and instead is highlighting the here-and-now, where the administration has the advantage of being able to take the initiative by marshalling government resources to shore up the economy.

What about foreign policy? The Japanese public is very much focused on the domestic front. The Asahi poll did ask the respondents about the JMSDA refueling operations in the Indian Ocean—a point of contention that Ichiro Ozawa used to good effect against the Fukuda administration. The results were 42% in favor of an extension, 42% against—another dead heat. If this and the Yomiuri numbers are anything to go by, public opinion has softened, if only a shade, towards the operations. And the DPJ does not have a workable alternative. I do not think that North Korea—nuclear program, abductees—is going to be a major political issue either, once the disappointment over the U.S. action to delist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism blows over. Unless something big happens in the Six-Party talks that puts Japan on the spot, but that’s a big if.

The Aso administration, with a little help from U.S. financial institutions, has stanched the bleeding for now. Nobody is ready to put a sell call on the DPJ yet, but it’s time to play some offense (or grab an LDP fumble or two, which is another thing that you should never bet against) if it is to deny the LDP-New-Komeito coalition and fellow-traveler independents a majority in the upcoming Lower House election—a modest goal for the LDP Secretary-General to be shooting for to be sure, and a measure of how far the DPJ has come..

On a related matter, the Asahi, alone among the major dailies, continues to focus on DPJ ties to the maruchi shoho industry. Today, it named names, including Kenji Yamaoka’s. (By comparison, yesterday’s evening Yomiuri tucked the story away on the antepenultimate page, where lesser scandals go to die (unless they’re spillover from the penultimate page). And that seems to the end of it for now as far as the Yomiuri is concerned.) There is no clear evidence of illegal activities; the DPJ should be able to put this behind it without serious harm. But it’s obviously an unwanted distraction going into the election. More immediately, it gives them something to think about when it decides what to do or not to do with the Yano-Sokagakkai-Komeito sideshow in the remaining days of the current Diet session.

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