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Majority say Abe bears responsibility over legislators' vote-buying scandal: Mainichi poll

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks in a news conference at his office in Tokyo on June 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- A majority of respondents in a weekend poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center polling firm said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bears heavy responsibility over the recent arrest of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife Anri in a vote-buying scandal.

A total of 59% of respondents said the prime minister bears a heavy responsibility over the June 18 arrests of the incumbent legislators on suspicion of vote-buying and other allegations in connection with Anri Kawai's successful campaign for a seat in the House of Councillors in 2019. Another 32% said Abe's responsibility could not be deemed heavy.

Support for the Abe Cabinet stood at 36%, up 9 percentage points from the previous poll on May 23, when the support rate fell to 27%. However, the level of support still remains well below the 56% who said they do not support the Cabinet. (In the previous poll, 64% said they did not support the Abe Cabinet.)

Regarding the closure of the Diet session amid calls for a longer session to handle measures to battle the novel coronavirus, 52% of respondents in the June 20 poll said the session should have been extended, while 30% said ending the session was appropriate.

As for the move by the central government to fully lift a request for people to refrain from traveling between prefectures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, 55% said the departure from restrictions was appropriate, while 32% said the request should have remained in place. The results indicate that with new cases of the coronavirus surfacing, mainly in Tokyo, and a second wave of infections feared, feelings of wanting to return to everyday life are mixed with dissatisfaction and concerns over the government's response to the pandemic.

Altogether, 50% or respondents said they feel uneasy about Japan's medical and testing systems in connection with the novel coronavirus -- surpassing the 29% who said they were not concerned. In a May 6 survey, 68% said they were concerned while just 14% weren't. The fact that half of the respondents still harbor such reservations likely stems from reports that it remains difficult to receive polymerase chain reaction tests in Japan, on top of a lack of protective gear and financial difficulties at medical institutions.

A total of 26% of respondents gave a positive evaluation of the Abe administration's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but a much larger 51% said they didn't appreciate it. In a survey on May 6, 22% gave the administration's response the thumbs-up and 48% viewed it negatively, while the corresponding figures in the May 23 survey stood at 20% and 59%, respectively. It is believed the public evaluation of the response has remained negative due to slowness in the payment of subsidies for business operators and individuals, and criticism over problems relating to the government's contracting of relief payment operations.

Surveys were sent to mobile phones by text and conducted over the phone on landlines. A total of 777 valid responses were received from mobile phones and 307 from landlines. Since respondents using landlines tend to be older, the proportion of mobile phone responses was raised from the previous survey. In the May 23 poll, 505 mobile phone responses and 514 landline responses were received.

In the previous survey, no major difference was seen between mobile phone and landline users in the support rate for the Abe Cabinet, but there was a clear difference this time -- 40% support among mobile phone users and 28% among those using landlines. By gender, 42% of men and 29% of women said they supported the Abe Cabinet. It appeared that the younger the respondents were, the more easily the decline in the support rate tended to bottom out for male than female respondents

The support rates for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reached 31%, versus 25% in the previous survey; Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) was stable at 11%; the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan saw 10% support, down from 12% previously; and the Japanese Communist Party fell to 6% from 7% last time. The LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito retained a support rate of 4%. The Reiwa Shinsengumi party's support rate climbed from 1% to 3%, while the Democratic Party for the People saw its support rate rise from 1% to 2%. The proportion of respondents who said they did not support a particular political party fell to 30%, compared with 36% last time.

(Japanese original by Takahiro Hirata, Poll Office)

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