Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s popularity has hit a new low three months after taking office, as he continues to reject demands for a snap election, according to opinion polls published yesterday.
A survey in the influential Asahi Shimbun showed his government’s approval rating at 19 percent, down from 22 percent last month and 48 percent in late September when he took power in the world’s second-largest economy.
His disapproval rating rose to a high of 67 percent, up three points from last month, according to the weekend telephone poll which drew valid responses from 2,138 voters.
Aso took office following a leadership election in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for most of the past half century.
His main task is to lead the conservative party through a general election which must be held by September.
Experts say the LDP faces a tough battle if it hopes to win a lower house election, with the resurgent opposition already in control of the upper house after an election in mid-2007.
Aso, under fire for a series of verbal blunders, has also failed to impress voters with his economic measures, despite his pledge to put “policies before politics.”
However he has surprised ruling and opposition blocs by clinging to power amid growing demands for a snap election.
Another telephone poll by the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun showed his government’s approval rating slipping to 20.4 percent, down half a point from last month.
Its disapproval rating was 72 percent, up six points. The Yomiuri poll was based on responses from 1,056 voters.
Aso is the third prime minister from the LDP to take charge in little over two years.
His government’s plan to hand out a total of ¥2 trillion (US$22 billion) — ¥12,000 per person — to bolster consumption has been criticized by the opposition as a bait for votes.
The Asahi poll showed 63 percent of those questioned were against the cash handout, and three in four believed that it was “ineffective” as an economic measure.
In the Yomiuri vote, 78 percent were against the plan.