Undecided voters could alter election predictions

The pollsters are saying it’s smooth sailing Sunday for the Liberal Democratic Party as it strives to unseat the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in Lower House of Representatives elections, but some observers are saying “not so fast: you’d better take a close look at all the undecided voters.”

Although everyone’s predicting  a return to power by the LDP, ousted in 2009 by the DPJ, the warnings are beginning to resonate that some 50% of the potential voters are saying they’ve not made up their minds who to vote for.   At the moment, polls say the LDP will capture about 21% of the vote, while the Nippon Ishin led by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and founder Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, stands at 10.6%, and even the ruling DPJ is expected to poll 10% of the votes.

A total of 15 fringe parties will also claim a small piece of the election pie, but that leaves a very significant number of voters who could pull some surprises.   Will that happen?  Possible, says an associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science.  “There seems to be a lack of enthusiasm this time around” among voters, says Yukio Maeda.  The suggestion is that many voters will simply decide to stay home instead of voting.

When the Liberal Democratic Party swept unexpectedly to power in August 2009, independent or undecided voters played a key role in dethroning the Liberal Democratic Party in a landslide.  At that time, there were clear differences being offered to voters.  This time, says Maeda, there’s confusion.  The DPJ hasn’t delivered on its promises, but the LDP isn’t offering real choices either.  On top of it all, the DPJ has been losing strength and seeing its members defect in recent months.

Aino Hino, an associate professor at Waseda University’s School of Political Science and Economics, says even with a win, it won’t be easy sailing for the LDP.  He explains “theoretically, new parties attract voters when they own an issue that existing parties fail to work on.”  Hino points out that “they may still win a good amount of support, but not the kind of victory similar to what the LDP experienced in 2005 and the DPJ in 2009.”  In a nutshell, he says, “the outcome may not look like it is a unified voice of the voters.”