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Image trumps policy in Japan PM race, polls show

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, Sep 10 (Reuters) Japan's Shinzo Abe, who appears virtually certain to become the nation's next Prime Minister, is supported by a majority of ordinary Japanese in a campaign where image is trumping policy, opinion polls show.

The campaign for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) kicked off on Friday with the 51-year-old Abe looking sure to win due to his overwhelming support among LDP lawmakers and party members.

Opinion polls conducted on Friday and yesterday, the first since the campaign began, showed that a majority of voters also favour him as well.

Of roughly 1,000 voters surveyed by the liberal Asahi Shimbun daily, 54 per cent said they preferred Abe to the other two candidates, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

Tanigaki was chosen by 11 per cent of voters and Aso by 10 per cent, the paper added.

No breakdown was given for Abe's support among LDP supporters, but a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun published on Friday showed that Abe is far more popular among party backers than the general public, with 74 per cent of LDP supporters for him against 55 for voters generally.

A Mainichi Internet poll released today found 62 per cent of voters favouring Abe compared to 21 per cent for Aso and 18 per cent for Tanigaki.

Both polls showed that image is weighing more with voters than policy.

Asked why they favoured Abe, 25 per cent of Abe supporters responding to the Mainichi poll said it was ''because he was nationally popular,'' followed by ''character'' at 15 per cent.

Expectations that he could get things done came in at a lowly 4 per cent, followed by leadership with 3 per cent.

The Asahi survey had similar results, with 44 per cent of respondents saying they thought Abe was popular because of his image and character. Only 5 per cent said policy.

The LDP election will take place on September 20, with the winner all but certain to become Prime Minister given the party's hold on parliament.

Reuters DKA VP1030

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