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87% say Emperor has played role as symbol of state: Mainichi poll

Emperor Akihito speaks at a news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, ahead of his 85th birthday on Dec. 23. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- Eighty-seven percent of respondents to a Mainichi Shimbun survey said Emperor Akihito has fulfilled his role as the symbol of the state, while 42 percent of pollees said they do not feel a distance between them and the Imperial Family.

The nationwide survey was conducted on March 16 and 17, ahead of the Emperor's abdication on April 30 and Crown Prince Naruhito's accession to the Imperial Throne the following day.

Regarding the Emperor's role as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, as stipulated in the Constitution of Japan, 67 percent of respondents to the survey said Emperor Akihito has fulfilled that role sufficiently, while 19 percent said the Emperor has played that role to a certain degree.

In an April 1972 Mainichi Shimbun survey, 27 percent of respondents to a similar question said Emperor Showa -- known as Emperor Hirohito during his reign at the time -- had been fully playing his role as the symbol of the state. Meanwhile, 42 percent of pollees then said Emperor Showa could be said to have been serving that role.

As the survey methods and the emperors were different in the two surveys, their results cannot be simply compared to each other. Still, the most recent survey provides a glimpse into a surge in the percentage of people who believe that the emperor -- in this case Emperor Akihito -- has fully played the symbolic role.

In the 1972 interview, 22 percent of those surveyed said Emperor Showa was not filling the role of the symbol that much, but in the latest survey, the figure plunged to a mere 3 percent. Furthermore, the percentage of pollees who said the reigning emperor was not playing the symbolic role at all dropped from 4 percent in 1972 to 1 percent in the latest survey.

In response to a question of whether they feel a distance between them and the Imperial Family, 16 percent of respondents to the March 2019 survey said they did not feel that way, while 26 percent said they did not feel so much detachment with the Imperial Household, for a total of 42 percent. The figure was below the total of 50 percent who did feel a distance -- a combination of 17 percent who felt remoteness and 33 percent who felt that way to a certain extent.

In a January 1990 poll conducted shortly after Emperor Akihito's enthronement, 38 percent of respondents said they felt a distance between them and the Imperial Household, while 36 percent said they felt that way to a certain degree.

As the 1990 survey was in an interview style, its outcome cannot be simply compared to the latest poll. Yet the percentage of pollees who said they felt a distance between them and the Imperial Family, or those who felt that way to a certain degree, was lower in the latest survey.

The poll covered 418 people via landlines as well as 525 via mobile phones, using the respondent-driven sampling method.

(Japanese original by Takenori Noguchi, Political News Department)

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