Japan’s Abe Has Pulled Off a Landslide—But He’s Not as Popular as You Might Think

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party swept away the opposition in Japan’s Oct. 22 election, even as polls show a sizable chunk of the electorate doesn’t support him. His ruling coalition maintained its two-thirds majority, with the next-largest party taking only about 12 percent of the available seats.

Approval rate for Abe’s cabinet

Support

Don’t support

64%

43%

37%

22%

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Support

Don’t support

64%

43%

37%

22%

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Support

Don’t support

64%

43%

37%

22%

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

While Abe campaigned on his record of delivering six straight quarters of growth in the world's third-largest economy, he also got some help from a divided opposition. Parties opposed to Abe failed to unite, splitting the votes of those upset with him, including over a series of cronyism scandals.

Ruling

coalition

2017

Ruling

coalition

2017

Ruling

coalition

2017

 
 
Seats
± vs. 2014
± vs. 2012
Liberal Democratic Party
284
−6
−10
Komeito
29
−6
−2
Party of Hope
50
Constitutional Democratic Party
55
Japan Innovation Party
11
−30
−43
Japanese Communist Party
12
−9
+4
Others
24
+9
−12
Parliament size
465
475
480
Results based on unofficial tallies by NHK, as of Oct. 23 at 5:20 p.m. JST.

Japan’s lower house has control over the budget and can overrule the upper house on legislation. It has 465 lawmakers, including 289 elected from single-member districts and 176 from proportional representation blocs.

Red All Over

The ruling party has an advantage in single-member districts as it has deep-rooted support in many rural areas that are given disproportionate weight. While 10 seats were eliminated ahead of the election in a bid to rectify the situation, a vote in one of the most populous districts is still worth only about half of that in one of the most sparsely populated areas.

The splintered opposition helped the LDP win about 75 percent of these seats nationwide.

Smallest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

LDP + Komeito 17 seats Other 6

Tottori

480K

Akita

886K

Shimane

580K

Fukui

655K

Saga

690K

Yamanashi

703K

Wakayama

831K

Kochi

622K

Tokushima

646K

Kagawa

831K

Largest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

LDP + Komeito 116 seats Other 32

Hyogo

4.6M

Hokkaido

4.6M

Osaka

7.3M

Saitama

6.1M

Fukuoka

4.2M

Tokyo

11.3M

Aichi

6.1M

Kanagawa

7.6M

Shizuoka

3.1M

Chiba

5.2M

Smallest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

Largest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

LDP + Komeito 17 seats Other 6

LDP + Komeito 116 seats Other 32

Hyogo

4.6M

Hokkaido

4.6M

Tottori

480K

Osaka

7.3M

Akita

886K

Shimane

580K

Fukui

655K

Saitama

6.1M

Fukuoka

4.2M

Yamanashi

703K

Tokyo

11.3M

Saga

690K

Wakayama

831K

Aichi

6.1M

Kanagawa

7.6M

Kochi

622K

Tokushima

646K

Chiba

5.2M

Shizuoka

3.1M

Kagawa

831K

Smallest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

Largest 10 Prefectures by Registered Voters

LDP + Komeito 17 seats Other 6

LDP + Komeito 116 seats Other 32

Hokkaido

Hyogo

4.6M

4.6M

Tottori

480K

Osaka

Akita

7.3M

886K

Saitama

Shimane

Fukui

6.1M

580K

655K

Fukuoka

4.2M

Tokyo

Yamanashi

11.3M

703K

Saga

Kanagawa

Wakayama

690K

Aichi

7.6M

831K

6.1M

Kochi

622K

Chiba

Shizuoka

5.2M

3.1M

Tokushima

646K

Kagawa

831K

Not So Dominant

While vote totals for each party aren’t yet available for the single-member districts, only about a third of voters opted for the LDP in the proportional representation section.

LDP

Komeito

Hope

CDP

Innovation

Communist

Others

Hokkaido

Tohoku

Kita-kanto

Hokuriku-shinetsu

Tokyo

Chugoku

Kinki

Minami-kanto

Tokai

Shikoku

Kyushu

LDP

Komeito

Hope

CDP

Innovation

Communist

Others

Hokkaido

Tohoku

Kita-kanto

Hokuriku-shinetsu

Tokyo

Kinki

Chugoku

Minami-kanto

Tokai

Shikoku

Kyushu

LDP

Komeito

Hope

CDP

Innovation

Communist

Others

Hokkaido

Tohoku

Kita-kanto

Hokuriku-shinetsu

Tokyo

Kinki

Chugoku

Minami-kanto

Tokai

Shikoku

Kyushu

Elderly People Are Over-Represented

Rural Japan also has a higher concentration of the elderly, meaning this demographic group is over-represented in the halls of power in Tokyo.

How Single-Seat Constituencies Went With Respect to Proportion of Elderly Voters

LDP
Komeito
Other
 
Pop. over 65 (%)
2017 Result
Akita
34.8%
Kochi
33.6%
Shimane
33.2%
Yamaguchi
32.8%
Tokushima
31.7%
Wakayama
31.6%
Yamagata
31.4%
Ehime
31.3%
Oita
31.2%
Fukui
31.2%
Iwate
31.2%
Aomori
31.1%
Kagawa
30.8%
Ishikawa
30.7%
Toyama
30.6%
Nagasaki
30.5%
Miyazaki
30.4%
Tottori
30.4%
Kagoshima
30.1%
Hokkaido
29.9%
Nara
29.6%
Fukushima
29.5%
Kumamoto
29.5%
Okayama
29.3%
Nagano
29.2%
Kanagawa
29.0%
 
Pop. over 65 (%)
2017 Result
Gifu
28.7%
Shizuoka
28.5%
Mie
28.5%
Yamanashi
28.4%
Saga
28.4%
Gunma
28.3%
Hiroshima
28.2%
Kyoto
28.1%
Hyogo
27.8%
Ibaraki
27.6%
Osaka
26.8%
Tochigi
26.7%
Fukuoka
26.6%
Chiba
26.6%
Miyagi
26.4%
Saitama
25.5%
Shiga
24.8%
Tokyo
24.4%
Aichi
24.3%
Niigata
22.9%
Okinawa
20.4%

An opinion poll published by NHK ahead of the election found 43 percent of those surveyed said they did not support Abe.

But his third election success should quiet critics in his own party who may have sought to challenge him for the leadership next year. This could help Abe cement his position through 2021, putting him on course to becoming Japan’s longest serving prime minister.