More discouraging numbers for Fukuda

Following on the heels of a Mainichi poll that shows a public both increasingly opposed to the Fukuda government and its plans related to the temporary gasoline tax and the road construction plan and eager for the LDP and DPJ to compromise (discussed in this post by Jun Okumura), Asahi has released its first opinion poll for March.

In regards to road construction and gasoline taxes, the numbers are no better (for the government) than the Mainichi poll.

Support for directing gasoline tax revenue into the general fund has risen to 59%, with 30% opposed. Similarly, 59% are opposed to the ten-year temporary gasoline tax extension, while only 28% approve of it. 71% want the government’s road maintenance plan trimmed, while only 15% want it to remain as is. Not surprisingly, when asked to evaluate Mr. Fukuda’s position on the gasoline tax/road construction issue, only 18% “valued” it, while 66% did not. (Beyond that, the poll recorded a drop in the cabinet’s approval ratings similar to other polls: disapproval at 50%, approval at 32%.)

Interestingly, the Asahi poll recorded stronger support for Mr. Ishiba than the Mainichi poll. The latter showed 49% in favor of his resignation, 47% opposed; the former found only 34% in favor of his resignation, while 57% felt it is unnecessary. Among those who want him to resign, only 18% thought he should resign soon. 80% felt he should resign after resolving the situation. It’s not entirely clear to me why this poll found a reservoir of support for the besieged defense minister, but it does suggest that Mr. Ishiba might be able to remain in office for longer than it seemed last week.

Despite all this, the poll did show that the LDP stills enjoys an edge in support, with 29% to the DPJ’s 21%. The DPJ’s approval rating actually dropped three points.

Unlike Okumura-san, I don’t think that the DPJ should be particularly worried about the results of this and other polls. Yes, there is always the danger that the DPJ, convinced it has founded the miracle solution to unseating the LDP, will go too far with an issue, abandoning public support in the process. But the LDP crackup is continuing apace, with the gasoline tax/road construction debate revealing not only the lingering power of the road tribe and its prefectural allies but also the frailty of the LDP’s reformists, a frailty that even Mr. Koizumi’s reemergence in the midst of this debate cannot correct. This debate has revealed the extent to which the government is out of touch with the public and the LDP at war with itself. Even if the LDP manages to retain a slim (simple) majority in a general election, I remain convinced that an election will serve simply as a catalyst for a transformation of the political landscape.

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