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Voter Reactions to ‘Strange Bedfellows’: The Japanese Voter Faces a Kaleidoscope of Changing Coalitions

  • Ikuo Kabashima (a1) and Steven R. Reed (a2)

Abstract

On 30 June 1994 the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ, formerly the Japan Socialist Party) joined its historic enemy, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to form a coalition government in a Japanese equivalent of Italy's ‘historic compromise’. Competition between the conservative LDP and the progressive socialists had defined the Japanese party system since 1955. In this paper we analyze voter reactions to this and other confusing events surrounding the end of the LDP's 38-year dominance. We find, first, that the Japanese electorate was able to make sense of these events. The political space reflected in public opinion mapped the political space reflected in the mass media remarkably well. Secondly, our findings support the idea that attitudes toward political parties are endogenous to the political process: strategic moves by political actors alter the political space within which they maneuver. Coalitions of strange bedfellows force voters to revise their perceptions of political space and reevaluate their attitudes toward the actors involved. Strange bedfellows seemed less strange, friendlier after they had been seen in bed together.

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Voter Reactions to ‘Strange Bedfellows’: The Japanese Voter Faces a Kaleidoscope of Changing Coalitions

  • Ikuo Kabashima (a1) and Steven R. Reed (a2)

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