With eight days until the campaign officially begins, the DPJ continues to hold a commanding position in public opinion polls.
A recent Sankei/FNN poll found that the DPJ's approval rating as a party increased three points to 31 percent, compared with the LDP's 22 percent, the DPJ is the party of choice in PR voting for 44.6 percent of respondents compared to 25.4 percent of respondents who favor the LDP, and support for Hatoyama as prime minister is more than double support for Aso (44.8 percent to 20.5 percent). The public's issues of concern also favor the DPJ: 30.8 percent said social security, 20.1 percent said recession countermeasures, and 15 percent 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 percent of respondents said they are not placing their hopes in parties and groups formed just before the election, compared with 28.5 percent 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 percent to 24.2 percent). Hatoyama is preferred by 46.5 percent of respondents, compared with 22.1 percent for Aso. In a question asking who respondents will vote for in single-member districts, the DPJ leads 39.1 percent to 24.3 percent, and it leads by 40.7 percent to 23.5 percent in PR block voting. Undecideds are 20 percent and 16.3 percent 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 Hidenao Nakagawa — is that the public is relatively unenthusiastic about a DPJ-led government compared to other alternatives. 24 percent favor a DPJ-led government compared with 26.9 percent who favor a grand coalition and 30.4 percent who favor a realignment. Nakagawa conveniently neglects to mention in his enthusiasm for the finding that 76 percent of respondents don't favor a DPJ-led government that 89 percent 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.
Other posts by Tobias Harris: