A net six-point shift in a single poll (which is limited to 500 people in the Tokyo area) and Mr. Nakagawa sees an end to the “headwind”? When you do the math, a shift from 72.2% to 70% is a shift of eleven people; a shift from 20.2% to 24.2% is a shift of twenty people. So the prime minister’s fortunes now rest on the opinions of some thirty citizens in the Tokyo area?
Perhaps it’s a function of having recently read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness, but a poll like this seems to be fairly insignificant. Mr. Nakagawa provides a number of explanations for this minuscule shift — discontent with the DPJ’s calls to revert to the old over-75 health care system, confidence that Mr. Fukuda will be a reformer thanks to his securing a cabinet decision on his road construction reform plan — but this strikes me as excessive for a shift that may in fact just be random, the product of having found by chance a slighter larger handful of citizens in the Tokyo area who support the prime minister than in previous weeks.
Admittedly my knowledge of statistics is wanting (something that graduate school will correct sooner rather than later), but this strikes me as a thin basis for arguing that the prime minister is poised to reverse his fortunes.
Come back to me when the newspapers release their latest polls — or, better yet, when a media outlet conducts a poll that’s actually representative of the public at large. The opinion polls conducted by the newspapers and other media outlets seem useful only in providing a big-picture look at public sentiment, a sense of the trends and the general public mood (supportive, opposed, skeptical, resigned, etc.); the precise numbers don’t seem particularly important, given the dubious (or unknown) methodology of these polls.
UPDATE: Asahi‘s latest poll recorded a one-point fall in Mr. Fukuda’s approval rating to 19% and a six-point increase in his disapproval rating to 65%.
UPDATE TWO: In Yomiuri‘s latest poll, Mr. Fukuda’s approval rating reached its lowest point yet (26.1%) in the polls conducted by Yomiuri. His disapproval rating also rose 6.3 points to 64.7%.
So hold off on the champagne.