To put a Cadillac in your nose.
It's just imposssssible!
- Steve Martin, Let's Get Small (1977)
Public opinion polls are supposed to be a reality check for politicians, keeping them from getting either too big for their britches or too far out ahead of the curve.
However, sometimes the results of public opinion polls demonstrate that the pollsters, the public or both have a slippery grip on reality.
NHK on Monday released the results of its June 7-9 public opinion poll. The results were largely in accordance with expectations:
- the Cabinet is still popular (62% supporting, 20% not supporting)
- the turnout for the July 21 House of Councillors election will be poor, but not historically poor (58% of the respondents said they "definitely will vote" - indicating that actual turnout will be around 50%)*
- a solid majority of the voters (64%) want the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito alliance to win enough seats in the House of Councillors in July to be in control of that House. Only 29% want the twisted Diet (nejire kokkai), the current splitting of control of the Houses of the Diet in between the ruling and opposition parties, to continue
- a more than two-thirds majority (69%) of the voters appreciate the government's economic programs, a.k.a., Abenomics
- the LDP is the only major party around today
Q: Which party do you support?
LDP 41.7%There is one unexpected result -- and it is a doozy.
New Komeito 5.1%
Your Party 1.5%
To the question of whether the respondents personally felt they had accrued benefits from Abenomics, the replies this month were:
I am feeling them 11%What is so charming about this result? It is impossible.
I am not feeling them 46%
I cannot say either way 37%
Last month (10-12 May 2013) NHK asked exactly the same question. The responses NHK pollsters recorded then were:
I am feeling them 21%You read that right.
I am not feeling them 36%
I cannot say either way 40%
In May, 21% are feelin' it, baby.
In June, only 11%.
So, the Abe administration is in place one more month, initiating and implementing more and more of its policy program each day. During that month the percentage of those declaring that they have felt the effect of Abe's economics policies shrinks by 10 percentage points.
For the NHK statistician, the options are not terrific. Either
1) the poll has a colossal margin of error, capable of accommodating a 10 point drop and a 10 point rise -- which means the polling is unreliable, or
2) at least one poll has a perverse and crippling sampling error, or errors, wiping out 10% of the population at a go -- which means your polling is unreliable, or
3) when asked about their own lives respondents tell the poll data collector not what is happening in their lives but what they think is happening in their lives -- or what they think the pollster wants to hear is happening in their lives -- which means your polling is unreliable, or
4) combinations of the above, which means...well, you know already.
The most likely reason for the evidently possible (it has been recorded and reported) but obviously unusable set of results is #3, with the respondents getting caught up in the earlier zeitgeist and answering "Yes!" without looking at their own situations with objectivity. However the party support numbers for the JRP and the Your Party are also suspiciously low in this poll. In most other polls support for these two parties hovers in the 4% to 5% range. So options #1, #2 and #4 could also be in play.
Whatever the cause(s), the loss of 10% of the "Abenomics - Are you feeling it?" believers over a month should be attracting a heck of a lot more attention.
Later - In comments, a reader offers an Option #5.
* The lowest turnout ever for a House of Councillors election was in 1995, when only 44.5% of the voters showed up.