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Majority say Japan shouldn't insist on return of all disputed Northern Territories islands: poll

The majority of respondents in a weekend opinion poll carried out by the Mainichi Shimbun said Japan should respond flexibly to a territorial dispute with Russia that is expected to be the main focus of talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin in December.

Fifty-seven percent of pollees in the Mainichi survey conducted on Nov. 5 and 6 said Japan should not insist on getting back all of the four disputed islets in the Russian-held Northern Territories off Hokkaido, while 25 percent said the government should work on reclaiming all the four islands. Nine percent said they were uninterested.

In a similar opinion poll conducted in March 2013, 67 percent of respondents at the time supported flexible handling of the territorial issue while 29 percent pushed for getting back all four islets, although the results of the 2013 and latest opinion polls cannot be directly compared due to the different survey methods taken each time. In the most recent survey, 60 percent of Abe Cabinet supporters and 63 percent of non-supporters were in favor of flexible handling of the issue.

Asked about the issue of constitutional amendments that is set to be put on the table in the Commission on the Constitution in each chamber of the Diet, the pros and cons were virtually tied, with 42 percent of pollees supporting making revisions to the supreme law and another 42 percent opposing changes. In an earlier survey in August, 44 percent were in favor of the Diet moving forward with discussions on a constitutional amendment while 40 percent disagreed with the idea.

Asked about when is the best time to hold the next House of Representatives election, the most common response was "in the first half of 2017" at 30 percent, followed by "in the last half of 2017" at 25 percent, "in 2018" at 21 percent and "by the end of this year" at 6 percent. Those who preferred a general election in the last half of 2017 or later made up nearly 50 percent of respondents, suggesting that the rumored plan to dissolve the lower house for a snap election at an early date is not necessarily supported by the public.

Of those who support the Abe Cabinet, "the first half of 2017" and "the last half of 2017" were most popular at 29 percent each, while 25 percent preferred sometime in 2018.

On extending the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s presidential term from two consecutive three-year terms to three consecutive three-year terms, 57 percent of pollees said they disapproved while 33 percent supported it. Among the Abe Cabinet supporters, 56 percent were in favor of the term extension, much higher than those who disapproved at 36 percent, but an overwhelming 87 percent of non-Abe Cabinet supporters opposed the longer presidential tenure. Sixty percent of LDP supporters were in favor of the extension.

Asked about a recent ruling handed down by the Tokyo District Court in October dismissing a female teacher's claim that not allowing workers to use their pre-marriage surname constitutes a violation of personal rights, 54 percent of the Mainichi survey respondents supported people's right to use their birth name at their work, while 31 percent said workers should use the name under their family registry at their workplace.

The opinion poll covered 1,540 households with members aged 18 and over nationwide, excluding residents in no-go zones around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. A total of 949 people, or 62 percent, responded.

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