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    Fukuda cabinet yet to squander public support

    The Fukuda administration’s approval figures remain respectable, according to a Yomiuri poll. The figures seem plausible, as do the reasons offered:

    Compared with 85.5 percent approval for former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet, 71.9 percent for former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa’s Cabinet, and 70 percent for the Cabinet of Fukuda’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, the approval rating was the fourth highest since the interview surveys–conducted within the honeymoon period of the inauguration of a new cabinet–began with a survey of support for the Masayoshi Ohira Cabinet in 1978.

    The interview survey was conducted at 250 locations across the country on 3,000 eligible voters, with 1,812, or 60.4 percent, of respondents giving valid answers.

    By gender, 63 percent of female respondents supported Fukuda while 54 percent of male respondents backed him. Forty-four percent of the respondents, the largest number, cited the “feeling of reassurance” the Cabinet gave them as the reason they supported Fukuda. On how long the Fukuda Cabinet should continue, 32 percent of respondents, the greatest number, said as long as possible, followed by 25 percent who said two to three years and 9 percent who said the Cabinet members should step down as soon as possible.

    Koizumi shook things up. Abe screwed things up. Voters aren’t unaware that they have to undergo more pain to deal with the most pressing social and economic issues, but their “please, not just yet…” attitude is not surprising. Fukuda’s soothing, avuncular style fits right in.

    People still break down along party lines over the refueling mission:

    Forty-nine percent of pollees said the Maritime Self-Defense Force should continue its refueling operation in the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, while 37 percent opposed its doing so.

    By political party, 69 percent of supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party backed the mission and 22 percent opposed it.

    Of those who support the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, 32 percent were in favor of the operation and 59 percent were against it. Of unaffiliated voters, 39 percent of respondents supported it and 42 percent opposed it.

    The DPJ is playing up its fight with the government and ruling coalition parties by sticking to its policy of opposing the continuation of the MSDF’s refueling operation, but the survey might have an impact on the party’s handling of the issue.

    Meanwhile, Fukuda scored higher points than DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa in leadership, political philosophy and goals, clarity and approachability.

    A narrow majority of pollees said the opposition should make compromises with the coalition, which makes perfect sense in policy terms, since the DPJ et al. haven’t offered a platform that distinguishes them much from the ruling coalition. They’re against extending the refueling mission and (like everyone who happens to be out of power) very much morally affronted by all the corruption visible everywhere. But most of the other differences are in the details, many of which shouldn’t be hard to trade horses over.

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