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54% say Fukushima water release into ocean 'can't be helped': Mainichi poll

Workers are seen going ahead with dismantling work at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 12, 2021. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

TOKYO -- A majority of respondents to a poll by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center have answered that it "can't be helped" that the government has decided it will allow treated water from the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to be released into the sea.

    The polling, held nationally on April 18, asked respondents for their views on the decision to release the water into the ocean, the meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington on April 16 -- as well as their approach to China -- and on Japan's handling of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    Regarding the policy to release treated water from the power station into the ocean, 54% of respondents said it "can't be helped," while 36% said "another way should be considered." Another 9% said they "don't know."

    Broken down by gender, 61% of men answered that it "can't be helped," while 32% said "another way should be considered." Conversely, 41% of women chose the former answer, while under 44% picked the latter. In a previous November 2020 poll, 47% of respondents said the release of water "can't be helped," with 43% saying "another way should be considered."

    On the April 16 talks between Suga and Biden, 51% said they viewed the discussions positively, 25% said they did not, and 24% said they didn't know. The meeting between the leaders included a joint statement indicating deeper ties in Japan and U.S. cooperation, including mentioning, "We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

    When asked about Japan's policies in response to China, 67% of those polled said that Japan "should take a harder response toward China," while just 21% said that "the response toward China should be more flexible." Another 12% said they "don't know."

    Broken down by age, the numbers were largely consistent: 70% of polled 18- to 39-year-olds said Japan should take a harder response, as did 70% of people in their 40s, 72% of individuals in their 50s, and 71% of respondents in their 60s. But the proportion fell to 53% among those aged 70 and older.

    The poll also asked people for their views on the decision not to accept overseas spectators to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of attempts to prevent coronavirus infections spreading. In response, 34% said that the measures were "appropriate." Another 14% said the event "should not accept domestic spectators, and be held without audiences."

    The combined responses showed that 48% of those polled approved of the games going ahead. But another 29% said the games "should be canceled," 19% said "they should be postponed again," and 4% said they "don't know."

    An earlier poll on March 13 indicated that 45% of respondents acknowledged the Olympics should go ahead. Of them, 9% said the games "should be held as planned," 21% responded "they should be held without overseas spectators," and 15% said they "should not accept domestic spectators, and be held without audiences." Additionally, 32% said they "should be canceled," 17% said "they should be postponed again," and 6% opted for "don't know."

    The U.S. also came out top when 764 respondents answering by mobile phone were asked which international relationship Japan should treat most seriously. The U.S. came out far ahead, with 65% of answers -- 500 people in all. In second was China, chosen by 60 people, or 8% of respondents. Third was Taiwan, with 4% and 30 respondents, fourth was South Korea with 2% and 17 responses, and India was fifth with 2% of answers and 12 respondents.

    Although Japan does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan because it handles it as a "region," consideration for Taiwan has heightened as it has become increasingly exposed to China's rising military and economic might.

    The poll, conducted jointly by the Social Survey Research Center and the Mainichi Shimbun on April 18, was aimed at people aged 18 and older and primarily administered via SMS texting functions on mobile phones. A random digit sampling method was used to generate phone numbers (both landlines and cell phones) randomly by computer, and automated interactive voice response technology was used to call those numbers.

    In the case of mobile phones called, individuals who agreed to participate in the survey were sent a link via text to respond to queries from their screen. For landlines called, respondents were asked to push buttons to give their answers. The target sample was 700 mobile phone users and 300 landline users, and in total, valid answers from 764 mobile phone users and 321 landline users were received.

    (Japanese original by Nanae Ito, Political News Department, Ko Sato, Tokyo Technology Center, and Shingo Okuma, Social Survey Research Center)

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