Casual Cynics or Disillusioned Democrats? Political Alienation in Japan

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Abstract

This paper examines the structure of political alienation among Japanese eligible voters, using data from the first, second, fifth, and sixth waves of the seven-wave Japanese Electoral Survey II (JES II). Political alienation can be expressed as comprising two dimensions, political trust and civic-mindedness. Males and people with more years of schooling are more allegiant in general; that is, they are both more trusting and more civic-minded. Evaluations of cabinet performance and support for democratic mechanisms are strongly related to political trust and civic-mindedness. Supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are no more civic-minded than average but are more trusting politically, whereas Japan Communist Party supporters are more civic-minded but a good deal less politically trusting than average. Independents are below the overall average on both the political trust and civic-mindedness dimensions. Even though party support is unstable, Japan's political system will not lose its stability as long as LDP supporters and independents constitute the majority of Japan's electorate. The advent of a new party capable of providing an alternative to the LDP is important to the future of Japanese democracy.

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