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39% don't have high hopes for new Democratic Party leader Maehara: survey

Seiji Maehara, newly elected leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, holds a news conference in a Tokyo hotel on Sept. 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

Thirty-nine percent of respondents in a recent Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll said they didn't have high hopes for Seiji Maehara, newly elected leader of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), topping the 31 percent who said they did.

The Mainichi Shimbun conducted a nationwide survey on Sept. 2 and 3. The support rate for the DP remained low at 5 percent, suggesting that the leadership change has not improved the party's stagnating approval. In addition, 24 percent said they were not interested in the new DP leader.

In the latest poll, 50 percent identified themselves as unaffiliated. Among them, 37 percent said they didn't have high hopes for Maehara, while 30 percent said they expect Maehara to be a good leader. Roughly 80 percent of DP supporters said they had hopes for Maehara as the new party leader, but expectations are generally low among supporters of other parties and voters with no party affiliation.

Maehara argued that he would review the party's cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in elections. Sixty-three percent of the respondents said the main opposition party didn't need to work with the JCP in the next House of Representatives election, while 23 percent said the two parties should join hands in the lower house race.

Among DP supporters, however, 40-plus percent wanted the party to work together with the JCP while another 40-plus percent said they didn't. Among JCP supporters, on the other hand, more people wanted to see the two parties cooperate in elections than those who didn't.

Asked how each country should respond to North Korea's threat as the isolated country repeatedly carries out missile launches and nuclear tests, 61 percent said countries should beef up their diplomatic efforts, far higher than the 25 percent who said they should increase military pressure on Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the approval rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was 39 percent, while 36 percent said they didn't support it. Twenty-two percent said they were not interested.

In the August survey, the Abe Cabinet's approval rate was 35 percent and the disapproval rate 47 percent, while 17 percent said they were not interested. Since the Mainichi Shimbun started including mobile phone numbers from the latest September poll in addition to landline phones as targets for the survey, the poll figures from August and September cannot be simply compared. Among unaffiliated voters in the latest survey, however, 46 percent did not support the Abe Cabinet while only 20 percent did, highlighting that strong opposition against the current Cabinet remains among uncommitted voters.

Among Abe Cabinet supporters, the most common reason for backing the administration was because "there are no other options" as prime minister or as a party at 47 percent. Among non-supporters of the Cabinet, on the other hand, the most common response was that they "don't approve of Abe" at 46 percent, followed by 39 percent who said they don't expect good things from his policies.

The approval rate for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party stood at 29 percent, while that for its junior coalition partner Komeito was at 4 percent. The JCP had a 2-percent support rate as did the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

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