The approval rating for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's just-launched Cabinet stands at 55.7 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Tuesday, suggesting the public have mixed feelings on the new leader heading into a general election this month.
The figure comes a day after Kishida took office and announced he will dissolve the House of Representatives on Oct. 14 and go to the polls on Oct. 31 to seek a mandate for his COVID-19 and economic policies.
The approval rating fell short of the 66.4 percent for the Cabinet of his predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, upon its formation in September last year. The disapproval rating for Kishida's Cabinet was 23.7 percent, compared with 16.2 percent for Suga's at the start.
The most popular reason for supporting the Kishida Cabinet at 37.3 percent was because "there is no other good candidate."
The nationwide telephone survey of 1,087 respondents was conducted over two days after Kishida, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was elected prime minister by both chambers of parliament.
An overwhelming majority of respondents, 69.7 percent, said they want a change from the policies of Suga and his predecessor Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister who held power from 2012 to 2020.
Kishida, an avid fan of the Hiroshima Carp professional baseball team, told reporters he feels "a sense of tension like the one just after a play ball announcement" as he got to work at the prime minister's office on Tuesday morning.
"I would like to speedily respond to various challenges," said Kishida, who hails from a prominent political family in Hiroshima.
In the survey, COVID-19 and the economy topped the list of issues Kishida should tackle with each being chosen by 27.9 percent of respondents.
Regarding Kishida's economic policies and his vow to implement a "new capitalism" that boosts growth and redistributes the fruits of that success to the middle class, 46.6 percent said they are hopeful while 46.9 percent said they are not.
A stimulus package worth "tens of trillions of yen" is in the works to support people and businesses reeling from the pandemic, the 64-year-old has said.
Approval ratings tend to be high at the inception of a Cabinet as the public have high expectations of a new lineup. Kishida is apparently aiming to capitalize on that goodwill by calling the general election earlier than expected.
Suga eventually saw his rating fall to 30.1 percent amid criticism of the government's COVID-19 response and he resigned after just over a year in office.
Kishida, who is set to deliver a policy speech and answer questions from party leaders in the coming days, will need to win over voters quickly to avoid a similar fate.
On Tuesday, Kishida held his first talks with foreign leaders after assuming office, speaking by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden and holding a video call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
A former foreign minister, Kishida discussed regional issues such as China and North Korea with the two leaders and agreed with them to strengthen ties and work together to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Cabinet members held their first press conferences at their respective offices, many of them fresh faces with 13 out of 20 given a ministerial post for the first time.
Trade and industry minister Koichi Hagiuda said at his press conference that he will "push forward with the restart of nuclear power plants while putting top priority on safety" as he noted the need to reduce carbon emissions.
Hagiuda said he intends to seek Cabinet approval of a revised basic energy plan in time for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26, to be held between Oct. 31 and Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Kishida appointed Daishiro Yamagiwa as economic and fiscal policy minister, while putting Takayuki Kobayashi in a new post charged with economic security, including preventing a technology drain from Japan.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was retained, while Shunichi Suzuki, a former Olympic minister, was named finance minister, replacing his brother-in-law Taro Aso, who served in the position for nearly nine years.