Monday, March 18, 2013
DJ: PM Maintains Strong Poll Ratings, Majority Support Abenomics
TOKYO--Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to join U.S.-led trade talks on Friday received majority support in three weekend opinion polls that also showed growing approval for his administration and his economic policies known as Abenomics.
A telephone poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun showed 71% in favor of Mr. Abe's announcement that he would take Japan into negotiations to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, part of his long-term growth strategy, compared with 18% opposition to the decision.
"We have gained the (public's) understanding for our Bank of Japan candidates, as well as TPP which plays an essential role in our growth strategy to spur private sector investment," Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a regular press conference. The government's three candidates for the BOJ leadership were approved last week with the support of opposition parties.
The poll also indicated that support for Mr. Abe's Cabinet continues to grow, rising to 65% from 62% in the previous survey in February. Of perhaps more specific interest to Mr. Abe, as he seeks to strengthen his mandate, 47% said they would vote for his Liberal Democratic Party in the summer's upper house election, compared with 42% previously.
The figure shows a large lead over the second placed Japan Restoration Party, with 12%, and the Democratic Party of Japan, ousted from office in December's general election, with 9%.
While the LDP won a solid majority in the general election, it doesn't have a majority in parliament's upper house, which can veto most legislation.
Tempering the positive survey results for Mr. Abe, however, the poll also showed that support for actually joining the TPP trade pact, not just the talks, is lower at 53%, compared with 23% against participation, as voters still wonder if the prime minister can secure terms that will favor Japan. More respondents said he would be unable to achieve favorable terms, at 40%, than those who said he could, at 39%.
The prospect of joining the talks--which already involve 11 other countries around the Pacific, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand--has drawn strong opposition from farmers, who fear an influx of cheap imports could damage their livelihoods, and from LDP lawmakers who depend on their votes.
Mr. Abe on Sunday defended his decision to enter the negotiations at the LDP's annual convention in Tokyo.
"I will protect Japan's agriculture and its food at all costs. I ask you to please trust me, believe in me," he said.
Polls by the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun also showed majority support for the decision to join TPP trade talks, at 60% and 63%, respectively.
The Yomiuri indicated that 69% were in favor of government and BOJ cooperation on growth policies, a result the paper said revealed that support for Abenomics was underlying the administration's favorable poll ratings.
The report noted that the increase in support for Mr. Abe's Cabinet to 72% from 71% in February was the third consecutive rise from the administration's launch, a result not seen in the paper's surveys since 1989.
The Yomiuri quoted, however, LDP's number-two man Shigeru Ishiba from Sunday's LDP party convention reminding fellow party members that high approval ratings of prime ministers in the past have plummeted after devastating upper house election losses. "A hold on government power becomes certain only after an upper house victory," Mr. Ishiba said.
The Yomiuri also indicated that respondents continue to have reservations about the trade pact's possible impact on the nation's farming sector, with 62% saying that agricultural products should be exempted from trade liberalization, compared with 26% who said an exception should not be made for them.
A Mainichi Shimbun poll also showed doubts about the effect of the TPP on Japan's agricultural sector, with opposition particularly strong in regions more reliant on farming and fishing. Of respondents from Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, 53% said they were against the decision to join the trade talks, compared with 40% in favor.
All three polls were conducted nationwide by telephone. The Asahi and Mainichi polls took place Saturday and Sunday, while the Yomiuri survey also included responses from Friday. The Asahi survey had 1553 valid respondents, the Yomiuri poll 1053 respondents and the Mainichi survey 954 respondents. None of the polls gave a margin of error.