Say what you want about Abe Shinzo. And I’ve said, uh, a lot of things. But there’s no denying he was a masterful politician. Through a combination of intra-party alliances and snap elections, he cemented his grip on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In the end, he served longer than any other Prime Minister of Japan.
Abe eventually stepped down, citing health reasons. We were treated to the short-lived reign of Suga Yoshihide, one of Abe’s right-hand men. Suga was affectionately known as the “Reiwa Grandpa”, as he was the one who publicly unveiled the new Imperial Era’s new name. But his initially high approval ratings came crashing down in the wake of the pandemic’s spread. (Remember the misbegotten Go To Travel campaign? Pepperidge Farm remembers.)
Kishida soars – then crashes
Which brings us to the current Prime Minister, Kishida Fumio (岸田文雄). Kishida’s enjoyed high approval ratings for some time. Earlier this year in May 2022, in Asahi Shimbun’s polling, he stood at 59% approval and only 26% disapproval.
Why the big numbers? Looking at the NHK polling at the time, voters gave Kishida high marks for his handling of Russia’s assault of Ukraine (there is, historically, no love lost between these two countries). Voters also praised his policy towards rising consumer prices and his handling of the pandemic.
But then Abe was assassinated. And it all went south.
Now, Kishida is suffering his worse approval ratings to date. Asahi’s polling has his approval at 40% and his disapproval at 50%. It’s the second month his approval has been upside down – and the first time his disapproval has ever entered the majority.
(In my original tweet about this, some right-wingers tried to discount the Asahi poll. But as I noted, even LDP-aligned publications like Sankei are showing a dive. Every major news org and paper shows similar trends in their own polling.)
There are various factors driving down Kishida’s numbers. But those same numbers also show that the political opposition isn’t likely to benefit from the plummet.
 内閣支持率. NHK News
 内閣不支持、初の50%に 国葬「評価しない」59% 朝日世論調査. Asahi Shimbun
 各党の支持率は NHK世論調査. NHK
 参院選 各党は投票率低下傾向で若者世代へ関心喚起の取り組み. NHK News
どいまだ支持伸びぬ野党が魅力取り戻す3つのカギ. Toyo Keizai
 【「批判ばかり野党」再燃】 平野啓一郎さん. Nishi Nippon Shimbun