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Citizen-government Congruence and Ideological Understanding: An Appraisal of Japan's 'right turn'

Cleavages
Elections
Political Parties
Voting
Willy Jou
Waseda University
Willy Jou
Waseda University
Masahisa Endo
Waseda University
Yoshihiko Takenaka
University of Tsukuba
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Abstract

Representative democracy rests on citizens controlling the direction of policy-making through free elections. Building on the literature that investigate the congruence between citizens and their governments, this paper investigates whether changes of government resulted from corresponding changes in voter preferences by examining data from Japan. The rarity of government alternation in Japan may suggest notable shifts in public opinion when it does occur. Results of the 2012 election, which returned a conservative party to power, have been interpreted as the country taking a significant right turn. This paper analyses survey data to answer the following questions: 1) are theories of responsible party government applicable in this non-Western parliamentary setting? 2) insofar as public opinion indeed took a 'right turn', in what policy fields is this trend most evident; that is, what issue dimensions structure voters' understanding of 'right' (and 'left')? We also discuss our results in comparison with European countries.