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Japan’s youths back LDP; independents favor Constitutional Dems

TOKYO — The weeks-old Constitutional Democratic Party won over almost a third of unaffiliated Japanese voters Sunday, while about 40% of 18- and 19-year-olds, casting their ballots for the first time, support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a nationwide poll shows. 


Nearly a fifth, or 18.8%, of respondents to a Kyodo News exit poll for Sunday’s lower house election expressed no party affiliation. Of this demographic, 30.9% named the center-left Constitutional Democrats as their choice on the proportional-representation ballot, choosing the camp that is poised to become the biggest opposition party in the chamber.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP came next with 21.1%, followed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s center-right opposition Kibo no To, or Party of Hope.


Both opposition groups contain elements of the previous top opposition Democratic Party, which broke up after its leadership told lower house candidates to run under the Hope banner. Left-leaning Democrats at odds with Koike on such issues as national security came together as the Constitutional Democrats instead. Together, the Constitutional Democrats and Hope attracted 48.8% of unaffiliated voters — far higher than the Democrats’ 20.8% in the 2014 lower house race.

Led by Yukio Edano — perhaps best recognized as the face of the Japanese government’s response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster — the Constitutional Democrats made greater inroads among unaffiliated voters than the conservative Japan Restoration Party, or Nippon Ishin, and the Japanese Communist Party. Osaka-based Ishin saw its share fall from a first-place 21.7% in 2014 to 8.5% on Sunday, the poll showed. The Communists sank from 17.7% to 9.8%.


Support for the LDP held steady from 2014 at 21.1%, while junior coalition partner Komeito’s figure dropped only 1.2 points to 6.2%. 


Pro-establishment youths


Meanwhile, 39.9% of 18- and 19-year-olds said they supported the LDP after the first lower house election since the voting age was lowered from 20 to 18 last year, according to the Kyodo exit poll.


Hope was their second-favorite party, drawing 10.7% support.


The LDP tended to do well with youths overall, with 40.6% of 20-somethings saying they voted for it. This was followed by 40.2% of respondents 70 and older, then by teens. 


The Constitutional Democrats fared better among older demographics. The party polled the highest among respondents in their 60s, at 17.8%, followed by those 70 and up at 16.7%. It languished in the single digits among voters under 40. The Communists also garnered more support among older respondents.


Hope fared best among those in their 60s, polling at 12.8%. It drew a similar level of support among all age groups.


The LDP was the most popular party overall, winning support of 36% among all age groups. The Constitutional Democrats followed at 14%, with Hope in third place at 11.8%.


By gender, 39.6% of men and 32.3% of women supported the LDP, compared with 14.2% and 13.7% for the Constitutional Democrats. Hope, led by Japan’s first female defense minister, polled at 12.6% for women and 10.9% for men.

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