Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's plan to raise the consumption tax has proven unpopular in a poll which showed deep public distrust with established political parties, a report said Sunday.
A telephone poll, conducted by Kyodo news agency over the weekend, said 50.7 percent of respondents want a general election to be held before a law for a consumption tax hike is enacted.
In contrast, only 25.4 percent supported Noda's plan to call an election after the legislation but prior to an actual tax hike, Kyodo said.
The government plans to double the five-percent sales tax rate by the middle of the decade, as the nation looks to tackle rising social welfare costs and ballooning debt.
But critics, including ruling and opposition lawmakers, fear that the economy is too fragile to cope with a tax hike, despite the threat from ratings agencies of a sovereign debt downgrade.
Raising the tax is considered potentially risky as the issue has contributed to the fall of prime ministers in the past, particularly after a hike to the current rate in 1997.
The approval rating for Noda's government fell 2.5 percentage points from November to 44.6 percent, while the disapproval rating rose six points to 40.3 percent, Kyodo said.
The poll received responses from 1,021 randomly selected eligible voters.
Noda replaced unpopular Naoto Kan as prime minister in September as the third chief executive to take office since the ruling centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in a general election landslide in 2009.
The DPJ ousted the long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party, pledging to give priority to ordinary people's livelihood.
But the party's leadership has since been criticised for backpedalling on the promise and aligning with the country's powerful bureaucracy.
The poll also showed that 71.5 percent called for a realignment of political parties, against 17.8 percent who said such a change is unnecessary, Kyodo reported.
The result indicated "public dissatisfaction with the current political framework involving two major parties and several small parties," Kyodo said.