* Voters still believe change of government was positive
* Voters equally disappointed by opposition LDP
By Yoko Nishikawa
TOKYO, March 16 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
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
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
It was down from 37 percent from the previous month. The
disapproval rate has risen to 47 percent from 14 percent last
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.
"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
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
"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.
"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.
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Alex