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Abe Cabinet approval up 5 points after news tax hike may be delayed: Mainichi poll

(Mainichi)

Approval for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was up 5 points in a new national poll by the Mainichi Shimbun conducted May 28 and 29, after news that the prime minister is considering postponing a planned sales tax hike.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they supported the Cabinet, up from the 44 percent in an April poll. Disapproval was down 5 points to 33 percent.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they approved of postponing the planned hike of the sales tax from the current 8 percent to 10 percent -- which is scheduled for April 2017 -- far more than the 25 percent who opposed postponing it. In the April poll, 59 percent of respondents said they were against the tax hike, while 31 percent said they supported it.

In the new poll, among supporters of the Abe Cabinet, 71 percent said they agreed with postponing the tax hike, while 21 percent disagreed. Among those who do not support the Cabinet, 60 percent said they agreed with a postponement, and 32 percent said they disagreed. Among the tax hike delay supporters, 52 percent said they supported the Cabinet, slightly more than the overall average.

Even among supporters of the opposition parties, those who agreed with a postponement exceeded opposition. The Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) are pushing for Abe to resign on the grounds that he has not fulfilled his economic policy responsibilities, but they may struggle to find a way to appeal to their supporters on the issue.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of respondents said they thought that Abe had "exercised leadership" as chairman of the Group of Seven (G-7) Ise-Shima Summit meeting on May 26 and 27, while 34 percent said they did not think so. Among those who said they thought Abe had showed leadership, 69 percent approved of the Cabinet. Among those who said they did not think Abe had exercised leadership, 59 percent disapproved of the Cabinet.

After attending the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting American leader to visit Hiroshima and lay flowers at the cenotaph for atomic bomb victims. In the latest poll, 90 percent of respondents said they thought the visit was "good," while only 2 percent said they did not think so. Among all age groups responding to the survey, around 90 percent said they thought Obama's Hiroshima visit had a positive effect.

Party support was largely the same as in the April poll. Thirty-three percent of respondents approved of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, 7 percent backed the Democratic Party, 5 percent supported Komeito, another 5 percent approved of the JCP, and 2 percent backed Initiatives from Osaka. Thirty-three percent said they supported no party.

The poll also asked for opinions about U.S. military bases in Okinawa following the recent case of a former U.S. soldier arrested in connection with a murder of a local woman. The most chosen response was that the bases "are better to have than not have but should be reduced," at 59 percent. Next was "they should be removed" at 20 percent. Nine percent said they should be "maintained as they are or strengthened."

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