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69% say Japan's Go To travel subsidy campaign should be canceled: Mainichi poll

This file photo shows the official residence of the prime minister, left, and the prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- A total of 69% of respondents in an opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center polling firm said the government's Go To Travel Campaign, due to start on July 22 without Tokyo, should be canceled for other areas of Japan as well, as the number of coronavirus cases rises across the country.

Only 19% of respondents in the July 18 survey said that the government's plan to go ahead with the campaign subsidizing individual travel expenses without Tokyo was appropriate. Just 6% said Tokyo should have been included in the campaign.

The support rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood at 32%, down 4 percentage points from the previous survey conducted on June 20. The proportion of those who said they did not support the Cabinet, meanwhile, rose to 60%, up from 56% in the previous survey.

The figures indicate that the public has strong concerns about promoting a national tourism campaign at a time when coronavirus infections have started to spread again, mainly in Tokyo, which could spread the virus across the country. It appears a negative reaction to the government's decision to bring forward the start date of the campaign from early August dragged the Cabinet support rate down, with just 21% of those who answered that the subsidy campaign should have been called off for areas besides Tokyo saying they supported the Abe Cabinet.

Restricted to respondents living in Tokyo, a total of 72% said that the Go To campaign should be called off for areas besides the capital. Another 11% said Tokyo should have been included in the campaign, suggesting a degree of dissatisfaction over the exclusion of Japan's largest city among some residents, but strong criticism of the campaign itself -- on par with that of other areas.

When asked if they planned to travel across prefectural boundaries this summer, 60% of respondents said they has no such plans, far more than the 20% who said they did and 19% who said they hadn't decided yet. In the capital sphere consisting of Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures, 19% said they planned to travel across prefectural boundaries on trips in the summer, while 59% said they didn't -- roughly the same as the national average. But in the three western Japan prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, which have similarly seen increases in the numbers of infections, 27% said they planned such travel, while 54% said they didn't -- indicating that slightly more people in these areas were inclined to travel.

Altogether, 81% of respondents said they felt concerned about the possibility of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus, while 18% said they didn't feel concerned. While infections have been spreading unevenly across Japan, there was little difference in the levels of concern felt across the country, although anxiety in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions of western Japan was slightly lower, at around 70%.

The government has advanced the Go To Travel campaign as it struggles over the question of whether to give priority to preventing the spread of infections or to economic activity. In the survey, 67% said that if they had to choose one option over the other, then preventing the spread of infections should be given priority. Another 15% chose economic activity. A total of 17% said they couldn't choose one over the other. The results indicate that the public is not wavering as much over what path to take as the government is.

When asked if the government should declare another state of emergency over the resurgence of the virus, 64% said it should issue one for specific regions, while 20% said one should be issued for all of Japan -- suggesting that over 80% of respondents want to see the government step up measures. Only 12% said that another state of emergency should not be declared.

Overall, 17% gave a positive evaluation to the Abe administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, down from 26% in the previous survey, while 60% gave a negative evaluation (up from 51%). It appears that criticism of the Go To subsidy campaign led people to give a lower appraisal of the government's response.

The poll was conducted using text messages for mobile phones and voice guidance for landlines. A total of 735 responses were received via mobile phones and 318 via landlines.

(Japanese original by Takahiro Hirata, Poll Office)

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