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Majority in Japan support state of emergency extension: Mainichi poll

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen at a news conference to formally declare the extension of the state of emergency, at his office in Tokyo on April 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- A majority of people across Japan appear to agree with the government's decision to extend state of emergency measures against the novel coronavirus to the end of May, according to a May 6 survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center.

In all, 66% of respondents indicated support by saying that the government's decision was "valid," while 25% said that it "should have been limited to certain areas," and just 3% opted for "it shouldn't have been extended."

Divergent trends in the results were not apparent when comparisons were made between residents in the 13 prefectures under special alert against the virus, where businesses are continuing to be asked to close and stay-at-home requirements remain severe, and those in the 34 other prefectures. Inside the 13 prefectures, 65% of respondents said the state of emergency extension was "valid," while 66% supported the move in the remaining 34 prefectures. Across all prefectures, 25% of respondents said it "should have been limited to certain areas."

But discrepancies were apparent in people's levels of optimism regarding when the measures could be lifted. When asked if they thought the state of emergency really will end in the prefecture where they live at the end of May, just 35% overall said they think it will, with 46% saying they think it won't.

In the 13 special measures prefectures, the number who think the actions are really going to end after this latest round is just 28%, with 53% expecting more to come. Conversely, people in the other 34 prefectures are more positive, with 51% thinking the end of May will bring with it a close to the measures, compared to 31% who think it won't.

While there appears to be broad agreement that the present circumstances have meant that the extension of state of emergency measures must continue to be rolled out across the entire country, the data also shows that more people in areas that have seen relatively fewer coronavirus infections are expecting relaxations in stay-at-home orders, and for economic activities to resume. Separated by region, a majority said they think the measures will end in the Tohoku region of northern Japan, and the western Chugoku region.

When it came to questions on how people spent the "Golden Week" extended public holiday under the emergency measures, almost all of the respondents had made some effort to reduce their time outdoors. In all, 82% said they "only went out for the most necessary reasons, such as shopping, work and other activities," and another 15% said they "didn't go out once." Just 1% said they "went out for travel, sightseeing or leisure." There was no divergence in the results found in the 13 special measures prefectures and the remaining 34.

On the government potentially upending the way the school year is done so that it would start from September instead of April, 45% said they were "in favor" of it, while 30% "oppose" it, and another 24% chose "don't know." At this stage, it's difficult to say there is public understanding of or a wide debate on the issue.

Approval for the Abe government was at 40%, down from the 44% it received in a previous edition of the survey on April 8, the day after the state of emergency was declared. Disapproval is on an upward trend at 45%, rising from 42% in the previous survey.

When people were asked which party they support, responses included 30% for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, down from 34% last time, 11% said the Japan Innovation Party, up from 5%, support for the Constitutional Democratic Party was unchanged at 9%, 5% were for the Communist Party, up from 4%, government junior partner Komeito was up to 5% from 4% previously, Reiwa Shinsengumi notched 2% down from 3%, and the Democratic Party for the People was up to 2% from 1%. But 33% said they didn't support any party, down from 36% in the previous survey.

The survey was carried out on May 6 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on people aged 18 and over. It was done using a random digital sampling method in which phone numbers are randomly assembled by a computer, and then an automatic questionnaire was carried out via cell phones and landlines. A total of 1,150 usable responses were provided, 575 of which were by cell phone, and 575 by landline. From March, the Mainichi Shimbun has been using a survey system in which people on their cell phones agree to take the survey after an automated call. If permission is granted, a text linking them to a page to fill in the survey is sent.

(Japanese original by Takahiro Hirata, Poll Office)

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