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Majority in Japan don't approve Abe govt's coronavirus response: Mainichi poll

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen entering his office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 19, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- Fifty-three percent of respondents in the latest Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll said they did not approve the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's handling of the issues posed by the new coronavirus outbreak, while 39% said they agreed with the measures.

The Mainichi Shimbun conducted a telephone survey on April 18 and 19. The approval rating of the Abe government over the coronavirus response dropped from the Mainichi's previous survey on March 14 and 15, which stood at 49%, while the figure for those who answered "do not approve" was 45%. It appears that confusion surrounding the state of the emergency declaration and an abrupt policy change to hand out cash to all residents to mitigate COVID-19-related financial damage have hurt the rating.

The overall approval rating of the Abe Cabinet stood at 41%, down 2 points from the March survey, while disapproval was at 42%, an increase by 4 points from the previous poll. This was the first time the disapproval rate has topped the approval of the current Cabinet since March 2019.

Asked about the government's policy to give 100,000 yen to all citizens in Japan amid the continuous spread of the coronavirus, 50% of respondents said it was "reasonable," while 19% answered it was "not enough." Meanwhile, 9% of pollees said the cash handout was "excessive."

On the government's decision to expand the state of emergency to cover all 47 prefectures, 83% said it was "reasonable."

While it cannot be simply compared to the latest poll due to differences in survey methods, according to an emergency opinion poll conducted jointly by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center on April 8, the government's earlier policy to give 300,000 yen to some households was not popular among the respondents, with 46% saying it was "not enough," while only 22% said it was "reasonable." In the same survey, 70% responded that the Abe government's declaration of a state of emergency came "too late," while 58% said the areas subject to the state of emergency "should be expanded." While some approved Prime Minister Abe's policy shift in the latest poll, the ratings likely reflected the respondents' criticism against his coronavirus responses that have been falling behind.

Asked about requesting businesses to suspend operations to tackle the outbreak, 44% answered that it should be decided according to situations regarding the number of confirmed cases in each area, while 39% said it should be done in all prefectures.

On party affiliation, 29% supported the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), down 4 points from the March survey, followed by the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) at 6%, up 2 points from the previous poll, the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) at 5%, down 4 points, the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito at 5%, up 1 point, the Japanese Communist Party at 2%, down 2 points and the support rate for the Democratic Party for the People remained at 1%. The largest percentage of the pollees at 43% answered that they did not have an affiliation with a particular political party, an increase of 3 points from the previous survey.

This was the first time the CDP's support rate has dipped below that of Nippon Ishin since the largest opposition was formed in 2017. The latter party may have garnered support as Nippon Ishin-backed Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura has been holding frequent press conferences to inform the public of his policies on coronavirus countermeasures.

(Japanese original by Satoru Iwashima, Poll Office)

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