Some notes regarding the Mainichi Shimbun poll that might reiterate what others have written elsewhere…
The wire services are all alight with the results of the weekend Mainichi Shimbun poll. Telephone polling found support for the Cabinet at 37% and opposition to the Cabinet at 45%, the first time that support for the Cabinet has fallen below the 40% level. The new figures represent a significant decline from the November Mainichi poll that had support for the Cabinet at 45% and opposition to the Cabinet at 36%.
When the 45% of the respondents opposed to the Koizumi Cabinet were asked the reason for their opposition, they gave the following answers (all numbers are percentages):
Dec poll Nov poll
Because Koizumi is the LDP president, 7 7
Because the compromises struck with the coalition partner are so glaring 21 18
Because the economic recovery is so late in arriving 44 41
Because the response to political scandal has been so passive 20 18
Other 8 16
Interestingly, only one of the listed reasons, the second one, has a discernable relationship with Iraq. In terms of the Iraq deployment, the compromising party would be the traditionally pacifist Komeito, not Koizumi’s LDP.
The Cabinet’s approval of a year-long extension of the Self Defense Forces mission to Iraq has hurt the Cabinet’s popularity ratings. Dissatisfaction with the process, or lack of one, is clear. The December poll finds that 84% of the populace feels that the PM has not fully explained the purpose of the Self Defense Forces mission in Iraq—indicating that even among the Koizumi Cabinet’s supporters many are dissatisfied with the PM’s public statements on the Iraq dispatch.
Attitudes toward the dispatch have also hardened in the last month. In November, 51% of respondents were opposed the mission and 27% were in favor. In the December poll, 62% were opposed and 31% in favor.
Decay in the Cabinet’s popularity was not accompanied by a decline in the popularity of the ruling coalition parties. The LDP recouped some of the ground lost between October, when it received 34% support, to November, when it received only 26%, by posting a 29% support rating this month. The Komeito support level shaded upward slightly, to 5% in December from 4% in October and November.
The opposition DPJ continues to spin its wheels in its pursuit of the LDP. In October the DPJ held the support of 20% of the electorate, in November 18% and in December 19%. Most disappointing and confusing for the DPJ is its continuing inability to attract women voters. In December women chose to support the LDP (29%) nearly twice as often as they supported the DPJ (16%).
As for the left-wing parties, they continued their night-of-the-living-dead shuffle, with the Communists receiving 3% support and the Socialists 2%.
With the support for the Cabinet down to 37%, Koizumi must be more subdued in his behavior over the next few weeks. He will likely continue to project an aura of stubbornness but he probably will try to do so without offending anyone unduly. The poll number with the greatest relevance is the 84% figure. The PM has not explained the extension of the SDF’s tour of duty in Iraq to the public’s content. Over the last weeks of this year and the first two weeks of the next, he will have an opportunity to make his case ex post facto.