TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent Cabinet reshuffle has failed to lift his public support ratings, newspaper polls showed Sunday.
Noda formed a new Cabinet on Friday in a bid to win cooperation from the opposition and support from voters to raise the sales tax and rein in the country's massive fiscal deficit.
Polls taken immediately after the reshuffle and published Sunday showed support for Noda and his new Cabinet was flat to slightly down from last month. New Cabinets in the past have seen approval ratings jump at least at the beginning, and the latest results signaled a rocky road ahead for Noda's administration.
A poll by the Nikkei business newspaper showed public approval for Noda and his Cabinet was 37 percent, almost unchanged from December. The Yomiuri and the Asahi said their polls showed approval dipped 5 points to 37 percent and 2 points to 29 percent respectively.
Noda's support numbers have steadily declined from around 60 percent since he took office in September. He is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years and already faces a public frustrated with disaster reconstruction efforts and a lackluster economy.
The tax issue has further shooed away supporters.
More than half of those surveyed opposed his plan to raise the consumption tax, while less than 40 percent supported it.
Noda says Japan urgently needs to reduce its debt burden as the nation ages and its work force shrinks, putting a greater burden on the social security and tax systems. He has promised to submit a bill by end of March to raise the 5 percent consumption tax in two stages, to 8 percent in 2014 and 10 percent by 2015.
The plan has divided parliament as well as Noda's own Democratic party. Party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa and his supporters argue that raising taxes would further hurt the economy.
The Cabinet reshuffle failed to buoy support because voters were dissatisfied with the government's explanation of the tax plan, the Yomiuri said. It said the poll results "spoiled" Noda's plan to tap the public support he had hoped to regain in order to get the opposition to cooperate.
Noda says the reforms can't wait and he has no choice but tackle them.
The newspapers each randomly surveyed about 1,000 eligible voters by telephone on Jan. 13-14 following the Cabinet reshuffle. A poll of that size would typically have a margin of error of 5 percentage points.