The Yomiuri ShimbunThe approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet stood at 48 percent in a Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted from Friday to Sunday, the first time the rating has dipped below 50 percent since the House of Representatives election in October last year.
The latest approval rating was down six percentage points from the previous survey conducted on Feb. 10-11. The disapproval rating rose to 42 percent from 36 percent in the previous survey.
Regarding the controversial sale at a reduced price of state-owned land to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen, it has been revealed that approved internal documents related to Moritomo Gakuen were altered within the Finance Ministry.
On this issue, 80 percent of respondents said they do not think the government is handling the issue appropriately. Sixty-five percent of those who support Abe’s Cabinet and 65 percent of those who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said the government’s handling of the issue is inappropriate.
Nobuhisa Sagawa, who has declared his intention to resign as the head of the National Tax Agency, testified in the Diet that the Moritomo-related documents, which in reality existed in the Finance Ministry, had been discarded.
Seventy-one percent of respondents said Sagawa should be called to the Diet to explain the situation, far surpassing the 20 percent who said it is not necessary to do so.
By political party, the LDP had the highest support rating at 38 percent, down from 42 percent in the previous survey, followed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan at 9 percent, unchanged from the previous survey. The percentage of respondents with no political party affiliation was 38 percent, up from 36 percent in the previous survey.
Support falls among elderly, women
The decline in Abe’s Cabinet approval rating was notable among elderly people, women and swing voters, groups among which the approval rating has tended to be low for a long time.
The decline in the latest Cabinet approval rating was smaller than that in a survey conducted in March last year, just after the Moritomo issue came to light, when it declined by 10 points to 56 percent.
It was also less than in a survey conducted in July last year, when the approval rating declined by 13 points from the previous survey to 36 percent, the lowest since the launch of Abe’s second Cabinet.
A look at Abe’s Cabinet approval rating by age group reveals a significant decline among elderly people.
The approval rating was in the 60 percent range among respondents aged 18 to 29, and in the 50 percent range for those in their 30s and 50s. However, among respondents aged 60 or older, 37 percent supported Abe’s Cabinet, down from 46 percent in the February survey.
Among respondents in their 60s, the approval rating was 30 percent, down 12 points from 42 percent in the February survey. The amount of decline is almost the same as that recorded in a survey conducted in July last year, which saw a decline of 11 points from the previous month.
By gender, 55 percent of male respondents supported Abe’s Cabinet, down from 60 percent in the February survey. While the approval rating among men still exceeded 50 percent, the corresponding figure among women declined to 42 percent from 49 percent in the February survey. Among respondents with no political party affiliation, the Cabinet approval rating declined to 22 percent from 29 percent in the February survey.
As to the reasons for not supporting Abe’s Cabinet, the most common answer was that respondents did not trust the prime minister, with 51 percent saying so, up from 42 percent in the previous survey. This is the second-highest figure after 54 percent in a survey conducted in August last year since the launch of Abe’s second Cabinet.
The most common reason for supporting Abe’s Cabinet was that it is better than past cabinets — this answer was given by 48 percent, up from 42 percent in the February survey. This indicates that more respondents feel passive support for Abe’s Cabinet.
Asked about the issues they want Abe’s Cabinet to prioritize, with multiple answers allowed, the largest group of 86 percent chose the economy and employment, up from 85 percent in the February survey. Forty-seven percent chose “issues involving Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution,” up seven points from the February poll. However, this was the seventh-most popular answer among nine choices.
However, there was no tailwind for opposition parties that have stepped up criticism against the government over the Moritomo issue. Looking at political party support ratings, the rating for the LDP slightly declined to 38 percent from 42 percent in the February survey, while ratings for the CDPJ and other opposition parties were all less than 10 percent.
Hope over U.S.-N. Korea talks
Meanwhile, 56 percent expressed hope for a proposed summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, and Trump’s decision to accept the proposal, as they feel it will help resolve the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. Forty-one percent said they have no hopes for it.
Regarding the impact of the U.S.- North Korean summit meeting on Japan, 29 percent said it will have a very good impact, 18 percent predicted a very bad impact, and 37 percent said it will have no particular impact.
Asked whether the international community should focus on dialogue or pressure to stop North Korea from conducting nuclear tests and missile launches, 43 percent chose pressure and 42 percent opted for dialogue.
When the same question was asked in a survey on Jan. 12-14, 50 percent chose pressure, exceeding the 40 percent who chose dialogue.
The survey was conducted by polling 856 households with landline phones and 1,141 mobile phone users — all eligible voters aged 18 or older — sampled with a random digit dialing method. Of them, 1,036 people — 505 on landlines and 531 people on mobile phones — gave valid answers.Speech