Japan's new prime minister Yoshihide Suga leaves after speaking at a press conference at his office in Tokyo on Sept. 16, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO - The approval rating for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet stands at 66.4 percent while the disapproval rate is at 16.2 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Thursday, confirming solid public support for Japan's first new leader in nearly eight years.

While a direct comparison cannot be made due to differing polling methods, the figure compares with 62.0 percent for his predecessor Shinzo Abe's Cabinet upon his return to power in December 2012.

Among prime ministers who took office after 2000, only Junichiro Koizumi and Yukio Hatoyama had higher ratings at the beginning of their tenures, at 86.3 percent and 72.0 percent, respectively.

Suga, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was elected prime minister by parliament on Wednesday. Abe's right-hand man as chief Cabinet secretary, Suga has said he will build on "Abenomics," a mix of measures aimed at beating deflation and spurring growth in the world's third-largest economy.

In the nationwide telephone survey, which was conducted over two days from Wednesday and collected about 1,000 responses, 58.7 percent supported Suga's focus on providing continuity with Abe, while 32.4 percent did not.

On Suga's Cabinet lineup, with eight ministers retained from the previous administration including Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and just two women, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto, 49.2 percent viewed it favorably while 40.6 percent had a negative view.

In response to a multiple-choice question on the issues the Suga administration should focus on tackling, the most common answer was the "COVID-19 response" at 64.1 percent, followed by "economy and jobs" at 35.2 percent, "pensions, medical and nursing care" at 23.8 percent and "fiscal consolidation" at 18.4 percent.

On the best timing for the next general election, 55.1 percent said at or near the end of the House of Representatives' current term in October 2021.

Suga has remained tight-lipped about whether he may dissolve the lower house before then and call a snap election.

Asked which party they plan to vote for under the proportional representation system, 44.4 percent of respondents said the LDP, 9.0 percent said the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, 6.1 percent said the Japan Innovation Party, and 5.9 percent said Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner.

Asked about the CDPJ, the main opposition party led by Yukio Edano that merged with a smaller opposition party earlier this week, 36.9 percent said they view it favorably while 55.8 percent said they do not.

The survey, covering 688 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,277 mobile phone numbers, yielded responses from 501 and 502 people, respectively.

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