March 16, 2010 / 3:53 AM / in 8 years

UPDATE 2-Support for Japan's 6-month-old govt slips further

* Voters still believe change of government was positive

* Voters equally disappointed by opposition LDP (Adds details)

By Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - Support for Japan’s government has more than halved since it took power six months ago, a poll showed on Tuesday, a further sign Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s party may struggle to win a majority in an upper house election.

Falling voter support adds to the Hatoyama’s woes as his Democratic Party, which swept to power after a general election win on a platform pledging to put more money in the hands of consumers to spur growth and to cut waste, aims to win a majority in the poll, expected in July, to avoid a policy stalemate.

Since the Democratic Party-led government took office on Sept. 16, voter support for the government has slid to 32 percent from initial highs above 70 percent, the Asahi newspaper said.

It was down from 37 percent from the previous month. The disapproval rate has risen to 47 percent from 14 percent last September. [ID:nTOE60B098]

Other surveys have shown a similar trend as doubts persist over Hatoyama's leadership and ability to make tough decisions on the economy and diplomacy, with voters increasingly disaffected by a series of funding scandals that have embroiled Hatoyama and the ruling party's No.2 executive. [ID:nTOE60B098] <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Graphic on Japan voter support: r.reuters.com/myv63g Graphic on voter intention: link.reuters.com/jev83j For more stories on Japanese politics click [ID:nPOLJP] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^> On Monday, the government upgraded its view on the nation 's economy for the first time in eight months, but deflation poses a risk and the ruling party's programmes have prompted investor concern over Japan's ballooning public debt. [ID:nECONJP]

“The tough reality of the fiscal health is holding them back. Their programmes looked good on paper, but they now realise how hard it is to actually implement steps,” said Tomoaki Iwai, political science professor at Nihon University.

“For that, voters are willing to forgive the Democrats because they know you cannot do everything in several months. But they are distrustful of the Democrats due to the dirty aspect of politics and money,” he added, referring to a funding scandal embroiling the ruling party’s powerful secretary-general. [ID:nSGE61204N]

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference that the public would start feeling the impact of the government’s efforts to boost the fragile economy once the budget for the next fiscal year, starting on April 1, was enacted.

“One assessment on falling voter support could be that the public has not been able to feel the impact of the change of government as they had hoped,” Hirano said.

Despite the falling support rating, 67 percent in the Asahi survey said the change of government last year, which ended half a century of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was good for Japan.

The Democrats aim to secure an overall majority in the upper house so they can to pass bills smoothly, without relying on two small coalition partners. But the survey showed 30 percent of just over 2,000 respondents said they would vote for the Democrats in the mid-year election for the upper house. [ID:nTOE62801F]

“Before, the chance of the Democrats winning a majority seemed certain, but that has changed since the problem of politics and money emerged,” said Nihon University’s Iwai.

But Iwai said voters would not simply go back to the LDP, either. The survey also showed only 21 percent would vote LDP.

Steven Reed, a Chuo University professor, said it was too soon to write off the Democrats’ chances of winning an outright majority in the election given the disarray in the LDP.

”The basic thing is, you can’t beat something with nothing,“ he said. ”Looking at support rates is well and good, but when voters walk into the polling booth, it’s “Here are your choices, pick one.”

In a move that further fragments the national political scene ahead of the election, the prime minister’s brother, Kunio Hatoyama who is himself a former cabinet minister, quit the LDP on Monday and plans to form a new party. [ID:nTOE62E07H] (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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