Japan’s new, largely untested Cabinet is starting out with high public approval ratings amid hopes that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government will reinvigorate the world’s second-largest economy, polls showed on Friday.
The approval rating for Mr. Hatoyama’s Cabinet, announced on Wednesday, reached 77 percent, the second-highest level after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s public support at 85 percent when he took office in April 2001, a survey by the Mainichi newspaper showed.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they have high expectations for the 62-year-old Mr. Hatoyama, who took office on Wednesday. He led the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan to a landslide victory against the nation’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party in elections at the end of August.
Mr. Hatoyama and his party face daunting challenges, including reviving Japan’s weak economy and fixing the scandal-plagued pension system in a rapidly aging society.
Public support appears strong despite the lack of experience among most of those in Mr. Hatoyama’s Cabinet. Because the Democrats have never held power in their 10-year existence, few have had Cabinet-level experience.
Many were heartened by the selection of veteran lawmaker Hirohisa Fujii as finance minister. Regarded as a fiscal conservative, Mr. Fujii was Finance Minister under a brief coalition government in the early 1990s, the only time in its 55-year history that the conservative LDP had previously been ousted from power. Previously a bureaucrat at the powerful Finance Ministry, Mr. Fujii is regarded as fiscal conservative - which has reassured some people amid the Democrats’ spending plans, including cash handouts to families with children.
Polls by the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan’s top-selling daily, and the business daily Nikkei, both found public support for the Hatoyama Cabinet was 75 percent.
Mr. Hatoyama will make his diplomatic debut next week with a visit to the United Nations and an economic summit meeting in Pittsburgh. He is expected to meet with President Barack Obama.
The new prime minister has said he wants Japan to forge a more independent relationship with the United States and closer ties to the rest of Asia. He has also said he wants to review the U.S. military presence in Japan, where 50,000 American troops are stationed.
But some 71 percent of respondents said U.S.-Japan relations will remain unchanged under the Hatoyama government, a poll by the major daily Asahi showed.
Japan’s top diplomatic duties will fall to the new foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, a former bureaucrat the trade ministry with no previous Cabinet-level experience.
The Mainichi daily conducted the poll by telephone on Wednesday and Thursday on randomly selected 1,650 voters. It said 1,014 voters responded. The Mainichi did not provide a margin of error, but a poll of that size would normally have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The Asahi surveyed 1,812 voters by telephone on Wednesday and Thursday and received 1,054 responses. The Yomiuri also conducted a telephone poll on 1,820 voters during the same period and got 1,807 responses.
The business daily Nikkei made a telephone poll on 1,397 voters and received 857 responses.