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By Sugawara Amane, staff writer

 

With the COVID-19 pandemic hammering the economy, 77 percent of candidates in the Lower House election favor increased fiscal spending, double the ratio of 38 percent in the previous election in 2017, according to a survey.

 

The survey, jointly conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and a team led by Masaki Taniguchi, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo, also showed stronger stances in favor of “big government” for this election.

 

In fact, the survey showed the largest percentage of candidates against “small government” since the joint surveys started in 2003.

 

The questionnaires were mailed out from Sept. 2 to 1,051 potential candidates, and responses were received from 974 as of Oct. 19 when campaigning officially began for the Oct. 31 vote.

 

Support for fiscal spending cut across party lines.

 

Eighty-four percent of candidates from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were leaning in favor, a sharp increase from 46 percent of the 2017 survey.

 

Among other parties, 87 percent of both opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan candidates as well as junior coalition partner Komeito candidates were leaning in favor.

 

There was also a weakening of neoliberalist thinking on government services, such as social welfare.

 

In response to a question about whether smaller government was preferred, 68 percent of all candidates were leaning against that view. That figure exceeded even the 57 percent in the survey for the 2009 Lower House election that was held amid the aftershock of the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

 

Concern about the fiscal debt also weakened amid greater pressure for heightened spending to restore the economy that has taken a beating from the pandemic.

 

Questions were asked about long-term economic goals, such as achieving a surplus in the government’s primary balance. This long-held goal would require tax and other revenue to cover programs, from social security to public works projects, without having to issue new government bonds.

 

Forty-one percent of all candidates were leaning in favor of postponing the goal of achieving a primary balance surplus.

 

Fifty-two percent of CDP candidates supported the suspension of that goal, followed by 45 percent of LDP candidates, an increase from 33 percent of four years ago.

 

Regarding a possible increase in the consumption tax rate from the current 10 percent, none of the major parties was in favor of such a move.

 

Four years ago, the LDP and Komeito said a higher consumption tax rate would likely be needed in the future.

 

Opinion was split on cutting the consumption tax rate, with the ruling coalition leaning against it while opposition parties, such as the CDP, the Japanese Communist Party, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People, leaning in favor of a rate reduction.