According to the snap polls conducted this week, the majority of the public is ready to give the Noda Cabinet the benefit of the doubt.
Do you support the cabinet of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko?
Do Not Support 18.1%
Don't Know/Don't Care 19.1%
The Asahi Shimbun
Do Not Support 18%
Do Not Support 14%
The Kyodo reading is extraordinarily high, the fourth highest rating for a new Cabinet since the measurement reached its nadir in the 1998 Obuchi Cabinet, which started out with only 31.9% support. The readings from the other two news outlets are less spectacular votes of confidence, with The Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi polls showing a steady decline among the initial ratings of successive Democratic Party of Japan prime ministers (Asahi - ja and Mainichi - ja).
We will see how the public reacts to the denouement of Ichikawa Yasuo's ridiculous statements. It seems clear that Ichikawa has destroyed his credibility and must be replaced, but with the typhoon and the soccer matches this weekend, Ichikawa's shenanigans have been pushed off the nation's mental screens.
The numbers that really matter this week, however, are not necessarily those for the new Cabinet. They are probably the numbers for party support. These have been steadily improving for the DPJ over the last month (according to the weekly FNN polls) and steadily declining or staying stagnant for the Liberal Democratic Party.
Which party do you support? (previous month's reading in brackets)
DPJ 27.2% [19.3%]
LDP 23.3% [23.3%]
New Komeito 3.5% [4.5%]
Your Party 4.9% [6.6%]
I do not support any party 35.7% [38.4%]
The Asahi Shimbun
DPJ 31% [20%]
LDP 23% [22%]
New Komeito 3 [3%]
Your Party 4% [4%]
I do not support any party 30% [43%]
DPJ 19% [13%]
LDP 16% [22%]
New Komeito 4% [4%]
Your Party 6% [5%]
I do not support any party 49% [49%]
There is a wide spread in the levels of commitment to parties in the three surveys, with The Asahi Shimbun finding strong party identification, Kyodo finding middling identification and the Mainichi Shimbun finding nearly one in two voters without a preference as to which party to support.
In all three cases, however, pollsters have found the DPJ has reversed places with the LDP. While the recovery of popularity may be tenuous, the numbers have will take some of the wind out of the sails of the LDP hardliners who have argued that the best strategy for their party is to tie up the Diet in knots, hobbling the government's functions so much that the prime minister feels compelled to call an election. While the LDP was riding high in the polls, this hardline strategy, though it had little chance for success, seemed to cost the LDP nothing. Now that the LDP is back down in the #2 spot, the case of the softliners, who want to adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward legislation put forth by the Noda Cabinet, is the stronger and will prevail.
With Hirano Hirofumi as the DPJ's navigator for the course legislation will take through the Diet, however, all these positive numbers may be for naught.