The public approval rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet fell to its lowest in about two years over the weekend, reflecting dissatisfaction with the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and its money and favoritism scandals, a survey shows.
The approval rate of 39.4 percent is 2.3 points lower than the previous survey in early May and the first below 40 percent since May 2018, when Abe was dogged by favoritism allegations involving a pair of school projects, the Kyodo News survey said Sunday.
The Cabinet’s disapproval rate meanwhile was 45.5 percent, up from 43.0 last month.
As for the pandemic, the survey showed that 96 percent of respondents are concerned about a second wave of infections striking.
In addition, 81.2 percent said the government was slow to issue economic aid, including the ¥100,000 ($927) cash handouts for all residents. Some 12.5 percent said the aid came quickly.
Regarding the prosecutor gambling scandal, 78.5 percent said they felt Hiromu Kurokawa, former chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office, wasn’t sufficiently punished for the mahjong sessions with journalists.
The scandal led to the resignation of the nation’s second-highest-ranking prosecutor, who was reported to be especially favored by the Abe administration. His exit delivered a fresh blow to Abe, who remains under fire for the government’s coronavirus response.
Regarding Abe’s refusal to reinvestigate the prosecutor gambling scandal, 69 percent said they were dissatisfied with the decision.
The survey also found that 52.5 percent rated the government’s response to the pandemic poorly and 39.5 percent rated it favorably. The figures were 57.5 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively, in last month’s survey.
Specifically, the government’s handling of public testing for the deadly virus was found insufficient by 77.4 percent. Another 82 percent said they felt anxious from the pandemic.
Abe fully lifted the nationwide state of emergency on May 25, which 47.2 percent felt was too early and 38.7 percent said was appropriate.
Even with business restrictions easing, infectious-disease experts have urged the public to remain vigilant about causing a second wave of infections.
Over 94 percent responded that they would continue to refrain from going out to some degree.
In the meantime, support for Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party stayed in the lead with 37.4 percent approval, followed by the opposition Japan Innovation Party at 7.3 percent despite dropping 1.4 points from the previous survey.
Those who don’t support any political party stood at 36.4 percent.
The nationwide telephone survey was conducted from Friday through Sunday and selected participants through random digital dialing, in which telephone numbers are generated at random by a computer.
Of the 737 households with eligible voters called, 516 responded, while 517 of the 1,201 mobile phone numbers called returned responses.