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72% support state of emergency over virus in Japan, 70% say declaration came too late

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds a news conference regarding the declaration of a state of emergency at his office in Tokyo on April 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- While most people support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's declaration of a state of emergency over the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan, many think the April 7 declaration came too late, a survey conducted on April 8 by the Mainichi Shimbun and the newly formed Social Survey Research Center has shown.

A total of 72% of respondents gave a positive evaluation of Abe's declaration of a monthlong state of emergency for the seven prefectures of Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka, while 20% disapproved of the move.

As for the timing, 70% said the move came too late, while just 22% said it had come at an appropriate time, indicating that many people had hoped the government would respond to the outbreak earlier.

More than half of respondents (58%) said that the declaration should be expanded beyond the seven prefectures in eastern, western and southwestern Japan -- a sign that there are concerns over the spread of infections in other areas. Another 34% of people said they considered the areas covered by the declaration appropriate, while 2% thought the areas should be narrowed down.

A total of 77% of respondents took a pessimistic outlook of the spread of cases in Japan, saying they didn't think the state of emergency could be lifted on May 6 as planned.

Regarding a 108 trillion yen emergency stimulus package, 38% of respondents said they didn't think it would be effective for the Japanese economy, compared with 32% who thought it would be effective and 30% who said they didn't know.

Regarding the government's plan to pay 300,000 yen to certain households whose income has dropped significantly as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, close to half (46%) said they thought the amount was insufficient. Another 23% were unsure if the amount was appropriate or not, while 22% thought the amount was appropriate. Many people are apparently dissatisfied that the payout is restricted to certain groups of people, and that it is difficult to understand the standards for receiving a payout.

The Social Survey Research Center was formed in April by the Mainichi Shimbun, Saitama University professor Masao Matsumoto, who specializes in political awareness theory, and telephone survey company Green Ship Co. The latest survey adopted the new method of questioning people through SMS in addition to phoning them.

The poll adopted a random digit sampling method to contact people through landlines and mobile phones, making use of automated voice guidance. Responses were received from a total of 1,046 people on landlines and 1,144 people on mobile phones. SMS messages sent to mobile phones provided a link through which people could answer the survey.

Many of the respondents in calls to landlines were elderly people, while those who answered mobile phones appeared to be evenly spread out among people in their 50s and younger.

A total of 44% of respondents in the survey said they supported the Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe (both on landlines and mobile phones) while 42% said they didn't (41% on landlines and 42% on mobile phones), indicating that the method of polling did not greatly influence answers.

(Japanese original by Takahiro Hirata, Poll Office)

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