Support for Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has tumbled by a third to 31 percent in a poll published on Monday, as he struggles with economic woes and the fallout from a series of gaffes. Just over half the respondents to a survey published in the Nikkei business daily said they wanted an election called by early in the New Year, rejecting Aso's argument that he should focus on battling the recession. "I think the prime minister's remarks have attracted critical attention from the people," cabinet minister Takeo Kawamura, the government's chief spokesman, told reporters on Monday. "The way for him to recover from this is to look forward and get to grips with the various issues, without forgetting the people's point of view." Aso had been expected to go to the polls shortly after taking office two months ago but the ruling coalition did not get the big bounce in voter support it had hoped for after the sudden resignation of his predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda. No election need be called until September 2009. Other recent polls have also shown Aso's support around the 30 percent level seen by many analysts as a minimum for a viable government. But there was little good news in the Nikkei survey for the main opposition Democratic Party. Only 17 percent of respondents said they saw Democratic leader Ichiro Ozawa as a suitable prime minister, neck-and-neck with Aso. Sixty percent of respondents said they saw neither as suitable. Analysts are divided on whether Aso will be able to stay on and lead his long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into the next election, with some saying he can probably keep his job given the lack of attractive alternatives. "I think nobody wants to replace him because leading the LDP into the next election means taking responsibility for a drubbing and I don't see anyone champing at the bit to lead the LDP into a bloodbath," said Jeff Kingston, professor of Asian studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus. "So the chances are that he can lead the party into the election and then will fall on his sword, because it is very likely that they will lose lots of seats."