Public Support for Japan's Abe Rises Following Cabinet Reshuffle

(Bloomberg) -- Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recovered some ground in the first two opinion polls conducted after he reshuffled his cabinet this week and apologized for the scandals that have tarnished his image.

Kyodo news found support for Abe up 8.6 percentage points to 44.4 percent, while the Mainichi newspaper put support for the prime minister at 35 percent, up nine percentage points on the previous poll.

Abe reshuffled his cabinet Thursday in a bid to halt a nosedive in public approval sparked by allegations of cronyism involving one of his close friends, as well as gaffes and missteps by several ministers. While his job is not in immediate danger, Abe needs to restore faith in his administration to fend off challenges in a party leadership election expected within a year.

Abe brought two politicians known for their criticism of his administration into his cabinet, and endorsed the relatively dovish former foreign minister Fumio Kishida as a future party leader. He also said the economy would be his top priority and softened his line on a divisive plan to change the pacifist constitution -- saying the revisions would not need to be completed by a fixed date.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the Kyodo poll said they had high expectations for Seiko Noda, the new internal affairs minister, who is already reported to have said she will challenge Abe for the leadership next year. Fifty-six percent said they had high expectations for Foreign Minister Taro Kono.