Sankei analyzes its polls

Sankei Shimbun, whose website is probably the best among the websites of the major dailies, is posting a four-part series of articles online that breakdown the newspaper’s public opinion polls. (Three of four have already been posted.) Regardless of the analysis provided in these pieces, they are worth looking at because they provide fine-grained analysis of polls based on prefectural distribution, age, and gender.

Part one analyzes Prime Minister Fukuda’s declining popularity. Sankei posits that an April poll that asked respondents to evaluate Mr. Fukuda’s “personality” showed the prime minister remains well-liked, regardless of what polls that ask respondents to evaluate Fukuda the politician show. This poll found that Mr. Fukuda is especially well-liked in the North Kanto HR block (which includes his home prefecture of Gunma) and the Tokyo block — and by women over 60 (and relatively less popular among twenty-something men and thirty-something women). Sankei never gets around to explaining what this means, and in the penultimate paragraph suggests that this may simply reflect an unwillingness on the part of the Japanese to speak badly of someone. But rather than embrace or reject this explanation, the article merely concludes by asking, “Is this cynical explanation acceptable?”

It is to me. Sankei makes no effort to explain why this alternative phrasing is superior. I recognize, of course, that in polls the slightest difference in wording can produce considerably different results, but the difference in wording is significant enough that the two questions are not interchangeable. Respondents seem to appreciate that when they are asked whether they approve of the Fukuda government, they are not evaluating the prime minister’s personality.

Part two looks at polls asking who the public holds responsible for the gasoline tax “confusion” and the BOJ leadership vacancy. The tendency in nearly all of those polls is for the respondents to blame both parties, while attributing slightly more blame to the government than to the opposition. This tendency is evident across nearly every age group, both sexes, and throughout the country. On the gasoline tax dispute, men were more inclined to blame the government, as were both men and women in their thirties.

Once again, I’m not entirely clear on the point Sankei is trying to make. The public is discontent with party politics? Nothing new there.

Part three looks at polls that have asked about who would make the best prime minister. Sankei compares numbers for Koizumi Junichiro, Aso Taro, Ozawa Ichiro, and Mr. Fukuda. Mr. Aso tops Mr. Koizumi, the overall leader, is the Kinki, Chugoku, and Shikoku blocks, although surprisingly he trails both Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Ozawa in the Kyushu block, his home block (a case of familiarity breeding contempt?). Mr. Fukuda trails the other LDP politicians among every category. Mr. Ozawa is nearly even with Mr. Aso among male respondents but trails by a sizable margin among female respondents. (And, of course, “nobody” runs strongly in all categories.)

In short, looking at the poll numbers more closely shows that regardless of how you slice it, the Japanese public is discontent with the contemporary state of affairs.

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