Kishida Needs to Restore Confidence in Politics as Rating Sinks to Lowest Point

If the approval rating of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet continues to remain low, the implementation of policy could be hindered. Kishida should reconsider the way he conducts politics and hasten efforts to regain trust.

In The Yomiuri Shimbun’s latest nationwide opinion poll, the Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating fell to 35%, the lowest since his Cabinet was formed, marking a sharp drop of more than 20 percentage points in the two months since a May survey.

Asked whether the prime minister has shown leadership over issues related to the My Number identification system, 80% said they “do not think so,” and 79% said they “do not highly evaluate” the government’s measures to tackle high prices.

The government has said comprehensive checks of the My Number system will be conducted by this autumn, following problems such as confidential details mistakenly linked to the wrong person’s identification card. However, local governments responsible for the checks have protested, saying the workload is too much and that they will not be able to complete the work in time.

In the survey, 78% of respondents said they “do not think” the comprehensive checks will solve the problems. The public likely thinks that mistakes will not be eliminated if the government continues to place excessive burdens on local governments.

Since its inauguration, the Kishida administration has been tackling difficult challenges, such as strengthening defense capabilities and addressing the declining birth rate, but the public has not given the Cabinet high marks. The way policy decisions are made could be a factor.

Regarding the My Number system, the government unilaterally decided last autumn that health insurance cards would be scrapped, without taking into consideration the actual work involved or the operations of local governments and other entities. It also tried to establish related legislation during the previous Diet session.

The administration has not been able to decide the timing of a tax hike to increase defense spending because of insufficient coordination with the Liberal Democratic Party.

The approval ratings of the cabinets of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe among LDP supporters hovered at around 90%, but the rating for the current Cabinet among such respondents was 69% in the latest poll. The enactment of a law to promote understanding of LGBT sexual minorities without sufficient Diet debate likely has turned off conservative supporters.

By age groups, the approval rating of the Cabinet was lower among younger people aged between 18 and 39, compared to people middle-aged and older.

The government has decided to expand the child allowance to combat the declining birth rate, and as part of the search for funds for this expansion, it is considering revising the scope of tax exemptions for households with children aged 16-18.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that younger generations are more anxious about possible increases in future burdens than they are hopeful about the measures to be implemented.

Opaqueness in the policymaking process for all of these issues cannot be denied. An impression that conclusions are being presented unilaterally without full discussions might be another problem.

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. There is also an urgent need to address the declining population. The prime minister needs to rebuild the foundations of his administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2023)