LDP race: Kono leads Kishida 46% to 17% in Nikkei poll

Nikkei -- Sep 26
Taro Kono is the favorite to become the next leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and effectively the next prime minister, a poll by Nikkei and TV Tokyo shows.

The opinion poll, conducted Thursday to Saturday, shows 46% of respondents picked Kono, the vaccination minister, as the "most suitable person" to succeed outgoing LDP President and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida was second with 17% and former Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi was third with 14%. The LDP's executive acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda was fourth with 5%.

The four candidates will face off in the LDP presidential race on Wednesday. The election will count votes from lawmakers in the Diet, as well as other ballots from party members and supporters nationwide. If no candidate receives a majority, the two front-runners will head into a runoff.

The winner will become the successor to Suga, who abruptly announced his resignation at the beginning of the month.

In the opinion poll, Kono received 46% to 48% of support from all ages while Takaichi polled well with respondents in their 40s and 50s, as well as those between 18 and 39 years of age. Kishida and Noda had little difference in their approval rating between generations.

The approval rating of the Suga cabinet was 38%, almost flat from 36% in earlier this month. The percentage of respondents who did not support the cabinet was 51%, five percentage points lower than the previous survey.

Meanwhile, 51% said the government is handling the COVID-19 situation well and 43% thought the response to the pandemic has been poor -- marking the first time in 11 months that more people approved of the government's handling of the coronavirus than those who did not.