Friday, March 15, 2019

Talking Polling with Top Tokyo Political Commentator

Floyd Ciruli and Hiroyuki Akita
In a recent trip to Japan, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the most interesting conversations was with Hiroyuki Akita, a regular columnist on foreign affairs and international security for a leading newspaper, Nikkei Shimbun.

We compared presidential and prime minister popularity. He had two recent polls that asked if the public supported the Abe administration. Abe received 53 percent in the Yomiuri newspaper poll and 43 percent in the Asahi newspaper. Both were improvements over the November 2018 rating. (The latest Kyodo News survey had support for the Abe government at 43 percent. The average of the three polls is 46 percent.)

Donald Trump’s latest polling average from RealClearPolitics is 43 percent, also an improvement over late 2018 and early 2019. The U.S. question asked approve or disapprove of president’s job performance.

In today’s political environment, it is not surprising for leaders in democracies to have less than 50 percent support. Theresa May in Great Britain, Emmanuel Macron in France and Angela Merkel in Germany are all below 40 percent in support for their governments.

Two big questions facing Abe’s government concern revising Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which outlaws the use of war to settle international disputes, and a possible consumption tax increase from 8 to 10 percent. Neither proposal has majority support.

Polling is important to the Japanese government and its parties as there are upper house (Councillors) elections this summer.

Japan has a strong newspaper establishment that does considerable polling. Akita, who received a master’s degree from Boston University, is a close observer of national politics and uses both local and international polls in his analyses.

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