As soon as Shinzo Abe announced on August 28 his intention to resign suddenly, many media outlets have carried out opinion polls to get a sense of how his administration, and possible successors, are viewed by the general population.
The trend in these surveys is that many are looking back favorably at his seven years and eight months in office.
Polls by Yomiuri Shimbun and JNN (TBS News) show support for the Abe Cabinet has risen to record highs. The Yomiuri poll carried out at the beginning of September gave the Abe Cabinet an approval rating of 52%, a jump of 15 points compared to the previous poll taken a month ago.
The newspaper reports that this is a rare occurrence at the end of an administration, placing it at the second highest approval rating after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001 and 2006).
JNN reports an even higher approval rating of the Abe Cabinet, 62.4%, based on its September opinion poll. That marks a jump of 27 points compared to the previous month and is allegedly the highest ever recorded.
Several polls sought to look back at Abe’s time as prime minister. For example, the Asahi Shimbun poll found that more than 71% of respondents approved of the overall Abe administration. This contrasted with the results the previous time Abe resigned in September 2007, which was at a much lower 37%.
How the Candidates to Succeed Abe Fare in the Polls
Finally, the next big question in the polls looks at the support for the possible candidates to replace Shinzo Abe.
Among the three candidates that have officially announced their candidacy on September 8 — Shigeru Ishiba, Fumio Kishida, and Yoshihide Suga — Suga shows support across the board.
The respondents to the JNN, Yomiuri, and Asahi opinion polls all gave Suga the highest approval rating among the respondents, with 48%, 46%, and 38%, respectively.
This is a huge lead, if we consider that the next highest approval rating for a candidate is for Ishiba, with support in the three polls coming in at 27%, 33% and 25%, respectively.
Support for a Snap Election?
One of the important questions being asked in this period is whether a snap election should take place immediately after the formation of the new government.
Should support for the lead party be high enough, it would provide an opportunity for popular approval, thereby paving the way for smoother sailing for the future government.
Opinion polls place the approval for the leading party (Liberal Democratic Party or LDP) in both houses of the National Diet at strikingly high approval ratings compared to opposition parties.
All three polls measured the approval rating for the LDP at between 40% and 43%, with other parties not making past the 5-percentile mark.
This might lend credence to the rumor that a new prime minister might dissolve the Diet and call a snap election sometime in the autumn.
However, the Yomiuri Shimbun also asked respondents whether they thought that a snap election would be necessary before the general election currently scheduled to happen in the autumn of 2021, when Abe’s current term is supposed to end.
The poll found that more than half the respondents, 55%, thought that the elections would not be necessary until 2021.
The final decision will be taken by the incoming prime minister, which is increasingly looking like it will be Yoshihide Suga.
The main concern in calling early elections seems to be whether the COVID-19 situation is under control.
On September 3, when Suga was asked on Fuji TV if a snap election would happen, he replied: “It depends on the situation…. We’re in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. The people of this country want us to deal with it properly.”
Author: Arielle Busetto