The support rate for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet fell to 32.3 percent, the lowest level since he became prime minister in October 2021, ahead of parliamentary by-elections next weekend, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The figure declined from 39.8 percent in the previous poll in September and was below 33.1 percent in November and December 2022, while the disapproval rating rose to a record high of 52.5 percent from 39.7 percent in September, according to the two-day nationwide telephone survey.

The survey conducted from Saturday also showed that 58.6 percent of respondents "do not expect" or "do not much expect" the upcoming economic stimulus package will be effective.

The Kishida government is struggling to turn around its flagging approval rating. The premier revamped its Cabinet last month to freshen up its image and now banks on the economic measures to jump-start public support by mitigating the pain of rising living costs.

Speculation grew recently that Kishida would dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election. However, political experts suggest that the results of the two lower house and upper house by-elections in southwestern and western Japan on Oct. 22 could complicate that prospect.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, makes a stump speech in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Oct. 15, 2023. (Kyodo)

The prime minister is unlikely to do so at least by the end of the year, given relatively busy parliamentary and diplomatic schedules, according to government sources.

The survey showed that 61.1 percent believe Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party still has links with the controversial religious group Unification Church, formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

The government has filed a request with a court for an order to dissolve the church in a move that would deprive the group, known for its aggressive solicitation of donations, of its tax-exempt status.

Questionable ties between many LDP lawmakers and the church came under the spotlight after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year. The shooter was upset with perceived connections with the religious group and Abe.

As for calls for an income tax cut to fight inflation from senior members of the Komeito party, the LDP's junior coalition partner, 63.2 percent of respondents said the tax cut is necessary, whereas 33.5 percent said it is unnecessary.

With Japan facing fiscal challenges to fund measures to strengthen its defense capability and improve declining births, 82.1 percent said they are worried about Japan's fiscal health.

On the other hand, the poll showed a relatively high level of public understanding regarding the release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, with 74.6 percent considering the government's decision was "appropriate" and 20.8 percent "inappropriate."

Currently, the second round of water discharge has been under way since early October, although local fishermen remain concerned over reputational damage to their products amid China's blanket ban on Japanese seafood imports imposed after the first discharge began in August.

Regarding the higher-than-estimated construction cost for the venue of the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka due to rising material and labor costs, 75.6 of respondents said an increase in financial burden is "unacceptable," while 23.1 called it "acceptable."

By political party, the LDP maintained the highest support rate with 34.7 percent, which was followed by 13.2 percent favoring the opposition Japan Innovation Party, while 6.5 percent preferred the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The LDP's coalition partner Komeito garnered 4.2 percent of support.

The survey called 496 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 2,692 mobile phone numbers. It yielded responses from 410 household members and 616 mobile phone users.


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