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78% of respondents 'interested' in Japan's LDP leadership race, 45% back Kono: poll

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda answers a question from a participant during the online "LDP Open Town Meeting" held at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s former policy council head Fumio Kishida answers a question from a participant during the online "LDP Open Town Meeting" held at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)
Former communications minister Sanae Takaichi answers a question from a participant during the online "LDP Open Town Meeting" held at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)
Administrative reform minister Taro Kono answers a question from a participant during the online "LDP Open Town Meeting" held at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)

TOKYO -- Seventy-eight percent of respondents to an online poll conducted on Sept. 25 said they were "interested" in the Sept. 29 presidential election of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with current administrative reform minister Taro Kono emerging as the most popular among four candidates.

    The nationwide poll targeting some 10,000 people was conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center to gauge public opinion in the closing stage of the LDP leadership race.

    In a question about who they would vote for if they could, 45% of respondents selected 58-year-old Kono, a member of the Aso faction, followed by former communications minister Sanae Takaichi, 60, who does not belong to any faction, and the party's former policy council head Fumio Kishida, 64, of the Kishida faction, at 18% respectively. Seven percent of respondents supported LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda, 61, who does not belong to any faction.

    Among the 3,748 LDP supporters who responded to the poll, Kono was the most favored contender -- backed by 47%, while Takaichi came in second place with 28% support, surpassing Kishida at 18%. Noda gained merely 4% support.

    Narrowing respondents down to 69 who said they had rights to vote as a party member, Kishida was the most preferred, backed by 22 respondents (32%), followed by Kono with 20 supporters (29%), Takaichi with 12 supporters (17%) and Noda with seven supporters (10%). Eight respondents said they did not want to answer the question.

    In the Mainichi Shimbun's Sept. 18 nationwide opinion poll, 50% of LDP supporters had favored Kono, followed by Takaichi at 25%, Kishida at 14% and Noda at 3%. However, these results cannot be directly compared with those of the latest poll because the survey method was different.

    In the presidential election, candidates will compete for a total of 764 votes -- 382 from Diet members belonging to the LDP, and 382 from party members based on voting by party members and non-party member supporters. In the Mainichi Shimbun's analysis, Kono is expected to come in first place in the first round of voting, but it will likely be difficult for him to secure an outright majority. Therefore, it is highly possible that a runoff between top two candidates will take place.

    In a question asking respondents whether they were interested in the presidential election, 78% said yes, while 18% said no. Ninety percent of the LDP supporters said they were interested. The approval rating for the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was 36%, while 51% disapproved of his Cabinet.

    The poll was conducted together with Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc. and Fuji Television Network Inc. by sending emails to randomly picked members of the "premiere panel" service, consisting of some 54 million NTT Docomo cellphone users. Valid responses were received from 10,090 people.

    (Japanese original by Tadashi Sengoku, Political News Department)

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