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Abe support rate nudges up to 31%, but majority still think Aso should resign

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks with reporters about Kake Educational Institution's establishment of a veterinary school at the prime minister's office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on May 22, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The job approval rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a May 26-27 opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun crept up to 31 percent, a 1 point rise from the previous survey held on April 21-22. Meanwhile, the ratio of respondents disapproving the Abe administration was 48 percent, down 1 point. Nineteen percent said they had no interest compared to 20 percent a month earlier.

When asked about their reasons for supporting the Abe Cabinet, 46 percent said because they have no other choice, down 1 percentage point from April. Twenty-three percent -- 2 points more than the previous survey -- said because they support the prime minister himself, while 17 percent answered that they have expectations for the administration's policies, down 4 percentage points.

Of those against the administration, 58 percent said they take that position because they do not support Prime Minister Abe, up 8 percentage points from April. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said it is because they are against the Cabinet's policies, down 3 percentage points from the last poll.

The support rates for political parties were 26 percent for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, down 3 percentage point from the previous survey; 13 percent for the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, unchanged; 4 percent for Komeito, a junior partner in the ruling coalition with the LDP, up 1 percentage point; 4 percent for the Japan Communist Party, unchanged; and 2 percent for the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), also unchanged.

Regarding the favoritism scandal involving Kake Educational Institution head Kotaro Kake and his longtime friend Prime Minister Abe, 70 percent said they do not trust the premier's explanation that he learned about Kake's plan to open a veterinary school in Imabari in Ehime Prefecture, in January 2017. Those who said they trust Abe stood at 14 percent.

A document recently submitted to the Diet by the Ehime Prefectural Government indicated that Abe told Kake in a meeting on Feb. 25, 2015 -- almost two years before the timing in Abe's explanation -- that the school plan was "good." Abe and the Kake institution have denied such a meeting took place.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of respondents said Abe's deputy and Finance Minister Taro Aso should resign over favoritism and cover-up scandals involving his ministry, while 33 percent said Aso should keep his job. The numbers were 51 percent and 37 percent, respectively, in the April survey.

Aso faces tough criticism because of allegations that officials of his ministry offered favorable treatment to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen's plan to build a school on a heavily discounted land lot purchased from the government. Prime Minister Abe's wife Akie is linked to the scandal but Abe vehemently denies his and his wife's involvement in the case.

The Finance Ministry apologized on May 23 for its officials giving instructions to discard records of negotiations with Moritomo officials in a bid to avoid a contradiction between the documents and Diet testimonies by former National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa. The ministry also admitted that its officials falsified documents related to the Moritomo land deal, after the ministry's official approval.

The Mainichi poll also had a question regarding the recent finding of activity logs of the Ground Self-Defense Forces in Iraq, which Defense Ministry officials had said did not exist in a Diet session last year. When asked about their opinions of this case and its implications for civilian control of the military, 57 percent said civilian control is not functioning, while 19 percent said it is working fine.

About the government-sponsored bill expanding the discretionary working system while setting caps on overtime hours, 50 percent said they are opposed, while 27 percent said they are supportive. Twenty-four percent did not answer.

Regarding candidates succeeding Abe as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the largest portion, or 21 percent, did not give an answer. Also, 18 percent said their candidates are not included in the prepared list of six politicians. The most popular candidate was Shigeru Ishiba, former defense minister, who garnered 20 percent, while 17 percent chose Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Abe came third with 16 percent.

When asked about a recently introduced law requiring political parties to try to field the same number of male and female candidates in local and national elections, 44 percent said there should be equal numbers of male and female lawmakers. However, those against the idea amounted to 37 percent.

About issues politicians should focus on, 29 percent chose pension and medical coverage from a list of 10 subjects. Childcare support came second with 14 percent, while 8 percent chose energy and nuclear power policy. Those who selected revising the Constitution, which is pursued by the current administration, stood at 5 percent.

In regards to the case of a dirty tackle by a Nihon University (Nichidai) American football team linebacker against a Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback in a May 6 game, 82 percent said they are not convinced by the explanation by former Nichidai head coach Masato Uchida and former coach Tsutomu Inoue that the two did not specifically instruct the player to commit the dirty play. Only 1 percent said they trust Nichidai's explanation.

The telephone poll covered a total of 1,077 people nationwide selected through a random digit sampling method.

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