• Kyodo

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The approval rate for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet dropped 5.9 percentage points from last month to 60.5%, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday, as controversy over issues involving the Science Council of Japan, a government advisory panel, has damaged the new leader's image.

The nationwide telephone survey, conducted over the weekend, showed that 72.7% of respondents believe Suga has failed to provide a sufficient explanation about his rejection of six scholars from joining the Science Council of Japan, a government advisory panel. Many scholars have condemned the move as an attack on academic freedom.

The disapproval rate for the Cabinet, launched last month, rose 5.7 points to 21.9%, the survey also showed.

Only 16.1% said Suga has fully explained his decision about the six scholars who have been critical of security and anti-conspiracy laws enacted under his predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Suga took office in mid-September after pledging to move forward with Abe's policies. The prime minister, however, has said his decision not to approve the six had nothing to do with their beliefs and opinions.

The survey found 45.9% believe Suga's action, which he said was based on law, was inappropriate, and that 35.5% said it was appropriate.

Meanwhile, 72.9% of the respondents said they feel worried about their lives due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the poll.

A total of 50.3% said they appreciate the government's response to the pandemic, while 41.6% said they do not.

As for a key Suga policy of setting up a digital agency to promote the digitalization of government functions, 58.2% said they expect it to deliver progress, while 34.7% said they do not.

A total of 68.9% said they appreciate an initiative led by administrative reform minister Taro Kono to stop using hanko seals on administrative documents.

On the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, 37.6% said they should be held next summer as scheduled, while 31.8% said the games should be postponed again and 24.1% said they should be canceled.

On what they think is the best timing for the next general election, 52.8% said at or near the end of the House of Representatives' current term in October 2021.

Suga has been tight-lipped about whether he may dissolve the Lower House before then and call an election.

The support rate for Suga's Liberal Democratic Party came to 45.8%, compared with 3.2% for Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner, 6.4% for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and 4.2% for Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

The survey, covering 731 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,239 mobile phone numbers, yielded responses from 505 and 506 people, respectively.

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