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Cabinet’s approval rate climbs despite ministerial gaffes, scandal: poll

Kyodo

The approval rating of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has risen 6.3 percentage points to 58.7 percent despite verbal gaffes by ministers and an infidelity scandal involving a parliamentary vice trade minister, a poll shows.

Some 73.2 percent of the respondents said they acknowledged the gaffes and the scandal as a sign of slackness in the government, according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted Saturday and Sunday.

In a change from usual polling procedure, Kyodo News made calls not only to fixed-line phones but also mobile phones for the first time in order to reflect the opinions of voters who only use mobile phones, many in the younger generation.

Recent criticism of the government seems to have eased as public attention turns to the tension surrounding North Korea. The head of Komeito, the junior coalition ally of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said the Cabinet’s firm support rate may be a sign of public desire for stable domestic politics.

“Due to the situation in North Korea, the public may be thinking that unity in politics is important,” Natsuo Yamaguchi told Kyodo News, adding that the ruling parties should “humbly accept the criticism about the slackness.”

The Cabinet’s disapproval rate meanwhile fell to 31.5 percent, from 32.5 percent in the previous poll conducted in late March.

On the issue of North Korea’s weapons programs, 53.4 percent said they support the “all options are on the table” stance taken by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Respondents who disagreed stood at 38.2 percent.

A majority of respondents, 51.1 percent, also backed Abe’s reaction to the U.S. military strikes conducted against Syria earlier this month in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Abe has conveyed Japan’s support for “the U.S. resolve to fulfill its responsibility to prevent the proliferation and use of chemical weapons,” a government official said.

Among ministers who have come under fire for gaffes, 80.5 percent said Regional Revitalization Minister Kozo Yamamoto is not the proper person for his post.

Yamamoto, who came under fire for calling curators of cultural properties a “cancer” that needs to be “eradicated,” has since apologized and retracted the remark, saying he only intended to say that curators should do more to make cultural properties accessible to foreign tourists, he said.

Respondents, however, were divided over the latest bid to pass a conspiracy bill to punish people for the act of just planning to conduct serious crimes, with supporters standing at 41.6 percent and opponents at 39.4 percent.

The government argues the bill is needed to combat terrorism as Japan prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, while critics point out that it could lead to invasive state surveillance and arbitrary punishment of civic groups and labor unions.

The survey covered 730 randomly selected households with eligible voters nationwide and drew responses from 508 people.

A total of 954 people were contacted through their mobile phones and 505 responded.