With the upper house election campaign in full swing — Michael Cucek has the campaign numbers breakdown here — there is no shortage of public opinion polling to wade through. Because the outcome of the election is more or less a foregone conclusion, not much of it is very interesting.
However, it is still worth looking at if only to understand how the public is evaluating Abe's performance and what their priorities are as the campaign trucks fan out across the country.
I've been paying particular attention to several questions in Asahi's national tracking poll pertaining to public assessment of Abe's economic policies. In addition to tracking the headline approval rating, I've been looking at one question which asks respondents to assess whether they approve of his economic policies (previously whether they believe Abenomics holds promise for growth), and another which asks whether they believe Abe's policies are linked to increases in wages and employment.
In the latest Asahi poll (jp), conducted a week after the previous one, public support for Abe's economic policies improved slightly, rising to 55% approval from 51%, and, more importantly, disapproval fell from 31% to 23%.
|Source: Asahi Shimbun|
Abe also saw a slight shift in his favor when it comes to whether the public believes his policies are connected to improvements in wages and employment.
|Source: Asahi Shimbun|
Finally, this latest poll introduced a new question, asking respondents which policy they would like to see debated more during the upper house election campaign. The poll is consistent with those dating back years: the public is most interested in economic growth and social security, followed by issues like the consumption tax and energy, and finally TPP, foreign policy, and the constitution.
The fluctuations in support for Abenomics a few points one way or another probably don't mean much in the scheme of things, not least because last week's and this week's polls have had relatively small sample sizes compared to polls conducted earlier in the year. After getting responses from between 1500 and 2000 households for most of the year, the last two polls have had fewer than 1100 respondents (1039 last week and 1084 this week). By comparison, the June 11th poll that showed a twelve-point drop in support for Abe's economic policies had 1781 respondents. With approximately 51.8 million households in Japan, 1084 respondents gives us a margin of error of ± 3% at 95% confidence.
Thankfully, a Yomiuri poll (jp) in late June found nearly identical results with more respondents (1821) when it asked whether respondents approved or disapproved of Abenomics: 54% approval, 31% disapproval.
Thus we can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that public support for Abenomics remains at just above 50%.
That, ultimately, is the most important number to watch. Because public support for the Abe cabinet rests so much on public support for its policies in the areas that matter most to Japanese citizens, i.e. the health of the economy, as long as the public supports Abenomics, they will support Abe. At the same time, if and when the public turns against Abenomics, Abe will be in trouble to the extent that growing unpopularity will create space for critics within his own party to undermine his program.
At which point Abe will be pressed to show just how much he believes in the slogan he has lifted from Margaret Thatcher (jp): There Is No Alternative.