Masuzoe ahead of pack in Tokyo gubernatorial race: Mainichi poll

Voters listen to campaign speeches of candidates running in the Tokyo gubernatorial race, in this picture taken in Tokyo's Ginza district on Feb. 2. (Mainichi)
Voters listen to campaign speeches of candidates running in the Tokyo gubernatorial race, in this picture taken in Tokyo's Ginza district on Feb. 2. (Mainichi)

Former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe maintains a lead over other candidates in the run-up to the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election, according to a new poll by the Mainichi Shimbun.

The latest Mainichi poll, taken Feb. 1 and 2 by telephone coupled with follow-up reporting and analysis, shows that Masuzoe is ahead in the field of 16 candidates, as he was in the previous poll on Jan. 23 and 24. Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, and Kenji Utsunomiya, 67, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, are trailing him, followed by Toshio Tamogami, 65, former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff.

But about 30 percent of eligible voters are undecided, making pre-election projections difficult.

The latest poll revealed that Masuzoe, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner New Komeito party, is broadly supported by men and women of all age groups, including young people whose support was relatively limited in the last poll. At least 60 percent of LDP supporters, nearly 80 percent of New Komeito supporters and even nearly 30 percent of nonaffiliated voters are throwing their support behind him.

Hosokawa is failing to gain momentum and the support rate among women is particularly low. Even among supporters of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), People's Life Party and Unity Party which unilaterally favor him, only about 30 to 40 percent of them signaled their readiness to vote for him. He is also behind Masuzoe when it comes to nonaffiliated voters.

Utsunomiya is also facing an uphill battle because he is supported by around 50 percent of supporters of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, while some supporters of the two parties that recommend his candidacy favor Hosokawa or Masuzoe. But the support rate among voters in their 60s and older is relatively high.

Support for Tamogami is noticeable among men in their 30s and 40s. Over 20 percent of supporters of the Japan Restoration Party, whose co-leader is former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, replied they will vote for Tamogami.

When asked to choose the most contentious issue in the upcoming election, 30.6 percent picked the economy and employment, up from 23.0 percent in the last poll, 27.3 percent singled out the nation's declining birthrate, aging society and welfare, up from 26.8 percent, and 14.7 percent mentioned nuclear power and energy problems, compared with 18.5 percent in the previous poll.

As for the question of an end to nuclear power and other national issues figuring prominently in the gubernatorial election, 22.8 percent said they understand and 39.6 percent said they tend to understand.

Around half of eligible voters who gave top priority to the economy and employment as well as the declining birthrate, aging society and welfare are in favor of Masuzoe. At least 40 percent of those prioritizing nuclear issues plan to vote for Hosokawa, while Utsunomiya and Masuzoe are in the 10 percent range. But the margin between Hosokawa and the other two candidates narrowed from the previous poll.

The Mainichi poll also shows that 93.5 percent of respondents are greatly or somewhat interested in the election.

February 03, 2014(Mainichi Japan)