According to a new poll by Kyodo News, 60 percent of Japanese believe the Constitution should not be altered, while 32 percent say it should be changed.
The percentage of people who support maintaining the Constitution in its current form rose from 55 percent in a July 1994 poll by the Japan Association for Public Opinion Research. In that survey, 34 percent said it should be changed.
The figures indicate sentiment against changing the Constitution may have grown in spite of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to amend the national charter.
The Abe government changed the interpretation of the Constitution in July 2013 to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. National security bills to put this change into effect are now being deliberated in the Diet.
The poll asked respondents to name the Constitution’s two most commendable features. Of those who oppose amendments, 88 percent cited its renunciation of war, while 51 percent named its respect for basic human rights.
Of those who want to change the Constitution, the war renunciation was cited as the most problematic feature by 36 percent. The second-most common response in this category was the fact that it was drafted by the Occupation forces, cited by 34 percent of the people in favor of amendments.
Kyodo News conducted the mail-based poll from May to June to look into public opinion 70 years after World War II ended with Japan’s defeat. It drew a 63.2 percent response rate from 3,000 randomly selected adults.
People who directly experienced the war made up 6 percent of the respondents.
Forty-nine percent of the respondents viewed the war as a “war of aggression” and 9 percent as a “war of self-defense.” But 41 percent offered no opinion on whether the war was waged for aggression or self-defense.
Sixty-seven percent said Abe should offer an apology for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression before and during the war in his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
Thirty percent of the respondents said such an apology is not necessary.
Prime Ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi offered apologies in the 50th and 60th anniversary statements, respectively. Abe is reportedly reluctant to include an apology in his statement.
In Kyodo’s poll, 28 percent of the respondents said Japan has apologized sufficiently to neighboring countries for suffering inflicted by Japan on them before the end of the war.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents said the prime minister should visit Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted war criminals alongside millions of the nation’s war dead, while 43 percent were opposed. Such visits always draw sharp criticism from China and South Korea.
The most frequently cited diplomatic priority for Japan is its relations with other Asian countries, chosen by 42 percent. More than 70 percent of the respondents said Japan should made efforts to improve relations with China and South Korea.
Asked about positive developments in the 70 years since the war, the most popular response was Japan’s reconstruction and economic advancement, cited by 55 percent, followed by the absence of war involving Japan, picked by 54 percent.
On problematic developments, 30 percent cited the weakened solidarity of families and local communities, while 28 percent picked environmental damage.
The poll showed that 52 percent view Japan as going in the wrong direction, surpassing 46 percent who said its headed in the right direction.
This pessimism was higher among younger respondents — 57 percent among those in their 20s and 30s, 54 percent in their 40s and 50s, and 49 percent of older respondents.
In addition, 58 percent of the respondents hoping to see the Constitution remain unchanged said they see Japan heading in the wrong direction.
Sixty-six percent of the people who feel Japan is very likely to be involved in a war in the future said the country is heading in the wrong direction, as did 56 percent of those viewing Japan’s future involvement in a war as “likely to some extent.”
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