A recent Sankei/FNN poll found that the DPJ’s approval rating as a party increased three points to 31%, compared with the LDP’s 22%, the DPJ is the party of choice in PR voting for 44.6% of respondents compared to 25.4% of respondents who favor the LDP, and support for Hatoyama as prime minister is more than double support for Aso (44.8% to 20.5%). The public’s issues of concern also favor the DPJ: 30.8% said social security, 20.1% said recession countermeasures, and 15% said “regime change.” That regime change — the DPJ’s much-derided slogan — polled ahead of foreign policy, the LDP’s issue of choice, is revealing. And for those placing their hopes in Your Party, you have little company: 65.3% of respondents said they are not placing their hopes in parties and groups formed just before the election, compared with 28.5% who are. The same proportion of respondents, however, expects a post-election realignment, something that seems less likely the better the DPJ does.
A recent Yomiuri poll found fairly similar results. The support for parties is roughly similar (31.6% to 24.2%). Hatoyama is preferred by 46.5% of respondents, compared with 22.1% for Aso. In a question asking who respondents will vote for in single-member districts, the DPJ leads 39.1% to 24.3%, and it leads by 40.7% to 23.5% in PR block voting. Undecideds are 20% and 16.3% respectively. In other words, it may be the case that voters are beginning to make up their minds, before the country goes on holiday this week.
The one ray of hope for the LDP — as noted by Nakagawa Hidenao — is that the public is relatively unenthusiastic about a DPJ-led government compared to other alternatives. 24% favor a DPJ-led government compared with 26.9% who favor a grand coalition and 30.4% who favor a realignment. Nakagawa conveniently neglects to mention in his enthusiasm for the finding that 76% of respondents don’t favor a DPJ-led government that 89% of respondents do not favor an LDP-centered government. I’m not sure how much stock to put in this question anyway. Given that a grand coalition or a political realignment are not necessarily on offer, the public has no choice but to pick between a DPJ-led government and an LDP-led government — and the rest of the poll makes very clear where the public’s sentiments lie.
There is time for this situation to change: by campaigning on the basis of fear, the LDP is in effect planting seeds of doubt in the hope that if they’re nurtured over the coming weeks, the DPJ’s support will erode. It may yet work, although the LDP is running out of time.
The reason, however, for not reading too much into these polls is that they simply say nothing about the DPJ’s support in particular areas of the country where it needs to do well (Kyushu, Shikoku, Chugoku, etc.). Is DPJ support in those areas consistent with the national figures?
Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, the general election remains the DPJ’s to lose, and despite my concerns of last week, there are few signs that the party’s lead is eroding.