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What the polls are saying (Part 3): Opposition parties are becoming regional parties

The Nikkei public opinion poll conducted to probe people’s views around the time of the October Lower House election reveals that nationwide support for the opposition parties is weak. With the division of the Democratic Party (DP) into the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Party of Hope, Japan no longer has an opposition party that enjoys a certain level of broad, nationwide support. It appears that the opposition parties are turning into regional parties that are strong in certain geographical areas.


In light of the fact that Oct. 10 was the official start of campaigning for the recent Lower House election, Nikkei conducted a public opinion poll on Oct. 10–11. In the poll, the CDPJ’s support rate [nationwide] was 11%. This political party’s support rate was highest in Hokkaido at 17%. The former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had robust support in Hokkaido, as labor unions are powerful there. Former DP members ran on the CDPJ ticket in eight of 12 constituencies in Hokkaido, including candidates backed by the CDPJ after the election. CDPJ candidates won in five of the constituencies.


The CDPJ had a support rate of 10% or more in only 16 prefectures, and most of them were in Eastern Japan, including Kanto and Hokkaido. Some 16 constituencies – about 90% – of the 18 constituencies in eight prefectures where the CDPJ won a single-seat constituency seat have a support rate of 10% or more. Most are in Eastern Japan, as Hokkaido and Tokyo account for half (nine) of the constituencies. CDPJ support rates are the lowest in Western Japan prefectures, with Shimane Prefecture at 5%.


Support for the Party of Hope was 13% [nationwide], with approval in Fukushima being the highest at 18%. The Party of Hope garnered its highest support rates in prefectures where the CDPJ did not field a candidate. The lowest was the 6% in Osaka, where the Party of Hope engaged in electoral cooperation with Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and did not field a candidate. The Party of Hope had a support rate of 10% or over in 43 prefectures. The party won a Diet seat in 18 single-seat constituencies, the same number as the CDPJ did. The party’s wins in single-seat constituencies spanned 14 prefectures. All were areas where the party’s support rate was 10% or over.


Nippon Ishin had a [nationwide] support rate of 3%. The rate was highest in Osaka at 18%. In 44 prefectures, though, the party’s support rate was under 4%. This strongly suggests the party is a regional party centered on Osaka.


Let’s reflect back on the 2005 Lower House election, when the focal issue was the Koizumi administration’s privatization of postal services. The former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) suffered a devastating loss, but it took the reins of government four years later. Looking at the Nikkei public opinion poll taken to assess people’s views around the time of the 2005 Lower House election, the former DPJ had a support rate of 20% or over in 37 prefectures. Support was lowest in Toyama and Shimane, but even then it was 16%. This means that the former DPJ had a certain level of support nationwide. Support for the former DPJ in 2005 was higher in all prefectures than the highest approval rate for an opposition party going into the 2017 Lower House election.


CDPJ Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama says, “Our inability to field candidates in all races had a major impact.” The CDPJ filed as a political party one week prior to the official start of campaigning.  Calling mainly on DP liberals who did not join the Party of Hope, the CDPJ fielded candidates in only about 20% of all single-seat constituencies. If the party fielded a candidate, the party’s message was well received. The support rate was 10% or more in seven of the nine prefectures where the party fielded more than one candidate.


A top official in the Party of Hope says, “With the failure of the former DPJ administration, the party lost its credibility as a viable alternative for those opposed to the LDP. Prior to the change in government in 2009, there was the sense that a two-party system was essential, but that belief has weakened.” The official continued: “The DP was still strong in Mie Prefecture, the home base of former DP leader Katsuya Okada, and in Hokkaido and Aichi where labor unions are powerful. The party’s backing was dispersed, though, when it split up.”


In the poll conducted at the end of November, the support rates for the opposition parties were as follows: CDPJ, 14%; Party of Hope, 2%; and DP, 1%. With this, it seems the CDPJ has pulled out ahead, although no direct comparison can be made with the Oct. 10–11 poll because the polling methodologies differ. The opposition parties are faced with the issue of how to develop nationwide support.


Support rates for opposition parties in Nikkei polls conducted to probe views

prior to the 2005 and 2017 Lower House elections (by prefecture)

2017 Lower House election


(led by Yukio Edano)


17% (Hokkaido)


5% (Shimane)

No. of prefectures where party support rate was 10% or over

16 prefectures

Party of Hope

(led at that time by Yuriko Koike)


18% (Fukushima)



6% (Osaka)


No. of prefectures where party support rate was 10% or over

43 prefectures

2005 Lower House election


(led at that time by Katsuya Okada)


30% (Iwate and Mie)


16% (Toyama and Shimane)

No. of prefectures where party support rate was 10% or over

All 47 prefectures

No. of prefectures where party support rate was 20% or over

37 prefectures



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