Monday, October 13, 2008

What Yomiuri Readers Tell Us Random-Digit-Dialing Poll Has to Say about Aso et al

Today’s Yomiuri has the results of its monthly RDD poll taken between October 10-12. Here are some numbers:
Aso Cabinet: support 45.6% (49.5%) not support 38.2% (33.4%)
Lower House proportional voting intent: LDP 38.9% (37%), DPJ 31.4% (30%)
For Prime Minister: Taro Aso 55.9%, Ichiro Ozawa 23.4%

September 24-25 poll numbers in parentheses
So Prime Minister Aso’s inauguration bump was in the 4-5% range? Given the MLIT Minister’s resignation, the Yamato Life bankruptcy, the freefalling stock market, and ever-growing economic fears, it could be worse. In fact, if it were up to Yomiuri nation, the LDP-New Komeito coalition would win going away. Unfortunately for the Aso administration, there’s also Asahi nation and Mainichi nation; and Sankei and TV nations can be quirky. Still, I think the DPJ and its allies have their work cut out for them if they want to win a working majority without the Communists. For that, I think that Yukio Hatoyama snapping at the LDP at every turn just isn’t enough; Ichiro Ozawa needs to show face. Mr. Ozawa is the DPJ’s biggest asset, and biggest liability.

Regarding the timing of the election, 70.3% want economic stimulus before the election while only 24.5% say they want to have an election first. These must be more or less the same people—24.9%—who want an election immediately. 12.3% want it somewhere around the turn of the calendar year, 23.4% want a spring election, and 33.8% say they can wait all the way up to next September, when the Lower House term expires. The supplementary budget for the stimulus package that the Fukuda administration had prepared should pass the Upper House (with DPJ support no less) this week. The second tranche that Mr. Aso has promised should be ready by early next week. The going could be harder this time; the DPJ has more legal leverage on the second package, since providing tax relief and dipping into Special Account reserves(or just possibly issuing deficit bonds) both each need legislative bills, which unlike budget bills can be held up in the Upper House for up to 60 days before the Lower House can hold a revote. It’s highly unlikely that the public and the media will let that happen. In the unlikely event that the DPJ tries, Prime Minister Aso will surely call a snap election, casting Mr. Ozawa’s people as the villains putting politics first. Either way, the election will happen sooner rather than later. There has been talk in the LDP about delaying the election, given dismal returns on a private poll, but I don’t think that’s a real option. Once the second tranche is in the bag (or the DPJ can be blamed for a delay), there’s little else that help them and a lot more that can go wrong; the economic downturn, political scandals, more bad news about the public pension system—the list goes on.

Yomiuri also asked the respondents about the JMSDA refueling operations in the Indian Ocean. The results were 46.6% to 39.9% in favor of an extension. Again, the DPJ is willing to let it come to a quick Upper House vote (setting the stage for the Lower House override) if the LDP is willing to agree to an early election. In any case, the outcome will change the minds of few voters either way.

Given the timing of the poll, it does little to reflect the U.S. weekend decision to delist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism despite Japanese pleas regarding the abduction issue. The action has been seen across the board here as a slap in the face for the Aso administration and the DPJ has been quick to seize on this point. Moreover, the nuclear deal itself is widely seen as incomplete and unsatisfactory. However, though I’m probably biased because of my own strong pessimism regarding the fate of the remaining abductees, I don’t think that a significant part of the Japanese public still believes that Japanese authorities have significant leverage over the U.S. administration where the Six-Party Talks are concerned. Thus, the issue should not have much of a bearing on the outcome of the upcoming election. Besides, the election is going to be very much about our economic worries; that is what both sides are going to try to capitalize on.

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