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Public support for new Japan premier falling


TOKYO (AP) — A new nationwide poll revealed Sunday that support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Cabinet has fallen more than 8 percentage points since taking power last month.

The Kyodo News agency poll shows public approval at 54.6 percent, down from 62.8 percent from its last survey in early September. The Cabinet’s disapproval rating climbed almost 10 points to 27.8 percent.

New prime ministers in Japan typically start out with relatively high approval ratings but see them decline steadily after a honeymoon period. Noda is Japan’s sixth new prime minister in five years and faces a public frustrated with disaster recovery efforts, a lackluster economy and political bickering.

His predecessor, Naoto Kan, also started his 15-month tenure with support just over 60 percent. That fell to under 20 percent by the time he left.

Noda, a fiscal conservative, got off to a rocky start. His trade minister resigned eight days after assuming the role, ruined by a verbal gaffe that was seen as insensitive to nuclear evacuees.

The poll also found that respondents were divided over possible tax increases to fund disaster reconstruction in regions devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. About half oppose the plan, while 46 percent said they were in favor.

Under a plan hammered out by the ruling Democrats last week, the government would seek to raise about 11 trillion yen ($142.7 billion) over a decade through temporary hikes in corporate, income, residential and tobacco taxes. That could be reduced to 9.2 trillion yen if Japan sells some assets, such as its stake in Japan Tobacco Inc.

The Democrats received far from a ringing endorsement in the poll, with just 27.1 percent backing Noda’s party. The main opposition, the conservative-leaning Liberal Democratic Party, won approval from 23.2 percent, the Kyodo poll showed.

Kyodo surveyed 1,012 eligible voters by telephone over the weekend. A poll of that size would typically have a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

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