More than 60 percent of those polled over the weekend support the idea of allowing Imperial princesses to retain their place in the Imperial family after marriage as part of measures to address its shrinkage.
In the nationwide telephone survey Saturday and Sunday by Kyodo News, 61.3 percent said princesses should be allowed to establish branches of the Imperial family after marrying commoners and 26.0 percent opposed the idea.
The survey of 734 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,141 mobile phone numbers drew responses from 509 and 511 people, respectively.
While the number of Imperial family members has declined, the Imperial House Law continues to stipulate that female members forfeit their royal status when they marry commoners.
It is believed that the issue of the shrinking Imperial family needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency. Prince Hisahito, the 11-year-old son of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, is the only male in the generation of Emperor Akihito’s grandchildren, and Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter, will leave the family after she weds next November.
In a similar Kyodo News survey conducted between March and April, 62 percent supported granting princesses the authority to establish such branches and 35 percent opposed it.
The survey also asked about the Emperor’s role after his abdication in 2019.
More than half of the respondents, or 54.4 percent, supported giving a former emperor, or jōkō, “limited involvement” after abdication in the official duties he previously conducted. But 39.8 percent said it is better for him not be involved at all.
A special panel on Imperial matters decided Friday that the abdication will take place on April 30, 2019, marking the nation’s first succession from a living emperor in about 200 years, with Crown Prince Naruhito set to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne the following day.
As for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the survey also found that the approval rating for his Cabinet declined 2.3 points from last month to 47.2 percent, and that 40.4 percent disapproved of its performance.
On how Abe should respond to North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear weapon and missile programs, 46.0 percent preferred intensifying pressure and 47.8 percent said it is essential to resolve the issue through dialogue.
Asked about the government’s plan to make preschool education and day care services free, 68.8 percent said the priority should be reducing to zero the number of children on nursery school waiting lists.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party fought the October general election with a campaign pledge to increase public spending to support child care and preschool education by redirecting some revenue designated to pay down the government’ spiraling debt when Japan hikes the consumption tax in 2019.
The latest survey followed some developments that could put pressure on Abe’s support rate.
Last month, the Board of Audit of Japan said in a report to the Diet that the heavily discounted sale of state-owned land to a school operator with ties to Abe’s wife took place because the price was improperly calculated, a finding that has prompted opposition lawmakers to grill Abe in the Diet.
Of the respondents, 75.0 percent said Abe’s explanations fell short of clearing up the murky deal, in which school operator Moritomo Gakuen purchased the chunk of land in Osaka Prefecture at around 14 percent of its appraised value.