The public approval rate for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) tends to rise immediately after a party presidential election. The Nikkei’s public opinion polls show that approval for the LDP rose by an average of 7.6 points after the eight contested presidential elections held since 2001. Public support fell only once after a contested election. LDP presidential elections not only give a boost to the approval rating for the new cabinet but also enhance the popularity of the party itself.
In four of the eight presidential elections, the approval rating of the LDP rose immediately afterwards by more than 10 points. The party’s approval rating fell by 4 points in 2015, when no one ran against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in that year’s presidential election.
A presidential election increases the exposure of the party because each candidate campaigns and appears on TV and Internet programs. New faces in senior positions heighten the public’s interest.
A steep rise in public approval, by 14 points, was recorded after the 2003 party presidential election. The winner, then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, went on to dissolve the Lower House and hold a snap election three weeks after his victory.
The next biggest rise, 12 points, came in 2012 when the Democratic Party of Japan held the reins of government. The presidential election that year allowed a comeback by Abe. Abe promoted party unity by appointing Ishiba secretary-general after he lost the party presidential race in the second round of voting.
Public approval for the LDP has fallen only once in the past 20 years after a presidential election where voting took place. In 2009, the LDP presidential election was held immediately after the party lost control of the government, and public support fell.
The LDP’s approval rating does not increase as much if a new leader is selected through intra-party negotiations. In addition to 2015, when no voting took place, there was a 3-point decline in the approval rating in 1989 and a 4-point rise in 2000. On those two occasions, the successors were selected based on negotiations.
The amount of increase in the party approval rating greatly impacts the new party president’s ability to run his administration. The administration of Junichiro Koizumi and the second administration of Abe both enjoyed long tenures after the public support for the LDP increased by more than 10 points following their victories in the presidential elections. On the other hand, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso only earned 8 points and 4 points, respectively, after assuming the party presidency; their administrations were both short-lived. (Abridged)