Fukuda’s falling popularity*

Speaking of what voters think, Sankei points to the latest public opinion poll delivering bad news to Prime Minister Fukuda. Following last week’s Yomiuri poll that showed the cabinet’s disapproval rising nine points to exceed 50% (just barely) for the first time Mr. Fukuda’s inauguration, with the approval rating falling 6.9% to 38.7%, a public opinion poll by Fuji TV’s Hodo 2001 program recorded a five point drop in the government’s approval rating to 27.8%.

Interestingly, in contrast to the Yomiuri poll, the latest poll also recorded a widening gap between support for the DPJ and support for the LDP — in the DPJ’s favor. Support for the DPJ increased by 5.4 points to 30%, while LDP support dropped 1.6 points to 20.6%. The Hodo 2001 numbers are nearly the exact opposite of the Yomiuri numbers.

Hodo 2001‘s poll, taken on 21 February, also posed three “policy” questions to respondents. First, “Do you think that the Fukuda cabinet is positively disposed to reform?” Only 16.2% answered yes, while 77.0% answered no. Second, “Do you think that bureaucrats, compared with civilians, are well-treated?” 85.2% said yes, 10.4% said no. Third, “Do you think there is a problem with the Defense Ministry’s response to the collision between the JSDF Aegis ship and a fishing boat that occurred on the 19th?” 87.0% said yes, 5.8% said no.

Excluding the second question, which strikes me as too vague to be of much value, the first and third questions suggest that the public — or these respondents — see the Fukuda government as both paralyzed in the face of unexpected events and adrift when it comes to an agenda. I find it hard to disagree with that assessment.

But which poll to trust? Very little information is given about methodology. The Hodo 2001 poll says that a mere 500 adult men and women in the capital area were surveyed by telephone, which hardly seems to be a sturdy enough basis for reaching conclusions about where the Japanese public stands on the performance of the Fukuda government. What, for example, do rural voters think of the government’s performance, especially in light of the battle over road construction? I think these figures would be more valuable in assessing the LDP’s prospects for a general election than a poll limited to Tokyo and its surroundings.

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