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POLITICS

51% favor constitutional reform

(Yomiuri: March 23, 2015—p. 1, p. 9)

 

 The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a mail-in public opinion survey across the nation to probe public attitudes on the Constitution of Japan. In the survey, respondents were asked whether they think the nation’s postwar constitution should be amended. In the breakdown of answers to this question, affirmative answers outnumbered negative ones, with “yes” accounting for a total of 51% and “no” for a total of 46%.

 

 In July last year, the government made a cabinet decision to review its conventional interpretation of the Constitution. With this constitutional reinterpretation, Japan is now allowed to exercise its right of collective self-defense to the minimum extent necessary. In the survey, respondents were asked whether they approve of this cabinet decision. In response to this question, “yes” accounted for a total of 53% and “no” for a total of 45%. In a previous telephone-based spot survey conducted shortly after the cabinet decision was made last year, those approving of the cabinet decision accounted for a total of 36%. The results of previous polls and the one taken this time around cannot be compared directly due to different polling methodologies. However, the public now seems to have a better understanding of the matter through such occasions as Diet discussions thereafter.

 

 In the survey, respondents were asked what to do about the Constitution’s Article 9, which stipulates that Japan and its people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To this question, a total of 40% said “Article 9 should be left intact as is but should be flexibly interpreted or implemented” in dealing with constitutional issues relating to the article. This answer topped all other answers. Among other answers, a total of 35% said “Article 9 should be amended because dealing with such issues by flexibly interpreting or implementing it has now reached its limits,” with a total of 20% saying “Article 9 should be strictly adhered to without any changes to its conventional interpretation or implementation in dealing with such issues.”

 

 Respondents were also asked, with multiple answers allowed, what they think should be amended in the Constitution or added to it. In the breakdown of answers to this question, a total of 44% said the Constitution should mandate the state to “maintain sound finances,” topping all other answers, followed by a total of 39% saying the Constitution should allow Japan to “maintain armed forces for self-defense,” 32% saying the Constitution should “guarantee the right of the nation’s people to live in a favorable environment,” and 30% saying the Constitution should “define the national and local governments’ respective roles.”

 

 Meanwhile, in order for the Diet to initiate amendments to the Constitution, Article 96 of Constitution currently requires “a concurring vote of two-thirds or more” of all the members of the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. Asked about this requirement, a total of 53%, more than half of the respondents, said it should be left intact as is.

 

 The survey was implemented from late January through late February.

 

 72% “hope for animated debate”

 

 In the Yomiuri Shimbun’s latest nationwide public opinion survey on the Constitution of Japan, half of the respondents favored amending it, with a total of 70% calling for all political parties to engage in animated debate on the Constitution in the Diet. The public now has a better understanding of the government’s constitutional reinterpretation allowing Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense within a limited scope. On the other hand, however, the public remains cautious about amending Article 9. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan wants the Commission on the Constitution in both houses of the Diet to begin concentrating on specific amendments to the Constitution during the current Diet session. However, it’s necessary to deepen the public’s understanding through Diet discussions. (Abridged)

 


 

 


 

 


 Questions & answers (%)

 

Q: What aspects of the Constitution of Japan are you interested in? If there are any aspects you are particularly interested in, pick as many as you like from among those listed below.

 

The Emperor and imperial household

20

Japan’s war renunciation, Self-Defense Forces

64

Equality, discrimination

20

Freedom of speech, press, and all other forms of expression

21

Information disclosure

20

Privacy protection

23

The right to live in peace, social welfare

35

Environmental issues

31

The rights to assemble, demonstrate, and strike

4

Electoral system

24

The right of access to the courts

12

Official homage at Yasukuni Shrine

21

Constitutional revision

34

Separation of the three branches of government

4

Local autonomy

15

The Diet’s bicame
ral system

14

The process and background of establishing the Constitution

7

Other answers (O/A)

1

Nothing in particular (NIP)

6

No answer (N/A)

1

 

Q: Do you think the Constitution should be amended?

 

Yes

51

No

46

N/A

3

 

Q: (Only for those who answered “yes” to the foregoing question) Why? Pick as many reasons as you like from among those listed below.

 

Because it is a U.S.-imposed constitution

18

To expressly stipulate Japan’s right of self-defense and the existence of the Self-Defense Forces

36

Because there are too many cases of claiming rights while neglecting obligations

20

Because the conventional way of interpreting or implementing the Constitution’s provisions could lead to confusion in meeting the change of the times

59

Because there are various issues Japan cannot address under its present-day constitution, such as contributing to the international community

48

O/A

1

N/A

1

 

Q: (Only for those who answered "no" to the foregoing question) Why? Pick as many reasons as you like from among those listed below.

 

Because the Constitution has already taken root in the nation

33

Because it is a pacifist constitution that Japan can take pride in around the world

56

Because the Constitution guarantees fundamental human rights and democracy

32

Because the Constitution can be interpreted or applied in a flexible way as times change

34

Because revising the Constitution may pave the way for Japan to become a military power

48

O/A

0

N/A

1

 

Q: Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates Japan’s renunciation of war and prohibits its maintenance of war potential. The government has so far interpreted or implemented its provisions in a flexible way to address relevant issues. What do you think the government should do about Article 9 from now? Pick only one from among those listed below.

 

Interpret or implement Article 9 in a flexible way to address relevant issues as in the past

45

Amend Article 9 because dealing with such issues by flexibly interpreting or implementing it has now reached its limits

35

Strictly abide by Article 9 without any changes to the government’s conventional interpretation and implementation in dealing with such issues

20

O/A

1

N/A

4

 

Q: The Constitution’s Article 9 has two paragraphs. The first paragraph stipulates Japan’s renunciation of war. Do you think this paragraph should be amended?

 

Yes

14

No

84

N/A

2

 

Q: The second paragraph in Article 9 stipulates that Japan will not maintain war potential. Do you think this paragraph should be amended?

 

Yes

46

No

50

N/A

4

 Q: The next question concerns the “right of collective self-defense,” or in other words, the right to launch a counterattack on a country, if and when this country has launched an armed attack on another country that is closely related to Japan, while regarding this armed attack as an attack on Japan. The government has reviewed its conventional interpretation of the Constitution and made a cabinet decision that allows Japan to use its right of collective self-defense to the minimum extent necessary if and when there is an obvious danger that could undermine the people’s rights. Do you approve of this?

 

Yes

53

No

45

N/A

2

 Q: (Only for those who answered “no” to the foregoing question) What’s the primary reason? Pick only one.

 

Because I’m opposed to using the right of collective self-defense

18

Because I don’t think the Constitution allows Japan to use the right of collective self-defense

12

Because Japan may not be able to exercise self-restraint in the future

58

Because Japan should be allowed to use the right of collective self-defense by amending the Constitution, not by reinterpreting it

7

Because Japan should be allowed to use the right of collective self-defense fully, not limitedly

1

O/A

2

N/A

1

 Q: The government used to create a special law for its each overseas dispatch of troops from the Self-Defense Forces over a long period of time for activities abroad other than participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Do you think the government, in order to change this, should create a new law, a so-called permanent law, which stipulates comprehensive rules for Japan to dispatch the SDF overseas?

 

Yes

54

No

43

N/A

3

 Q: Article 96 of the Constitution requires a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors in order for the Diet to initiate amendments to the Constitution and submit these amendments to the people for ratification. In this regard, there’s an opinion saying this requirement should be changed to a concurring vote of more than half of all the members of each house so the Diet can facilitate its submission to the people of amendments to the Constitution. Pick only one that is close to your thinking about revising Article 96.

 

Ease the requirement so the Diet can initiate amendments to the Constitution with a concurring vote of more than half of all the members of each house for its submission to the people for ratification

20

Divide Article 96’s paragraph into a provision easing the requirement to a concurring vote of more than half and a provision retaining a concurring vote of more than two-thirds

22

Leave it as is with a concurring vote of more than two-thirds

53

O/A

1

N/A

3

 Q: Article 59 of the Constitution stipulates that a bill which is passed by the House of Representatives, even if it’s voted down in the House of Councillors, becomes law when passed a second time by the House of Representatives by a majority of two-thirds or more of the members present. In this regard, there’s an opinion saying this article should be revised so a bill can become a law when passed a second time by a concurring vote of more than half of the members of the House of Representatives. Which of the following opinions is close to your opinion? Pick only one.

 

Ease the requirement so a concurring vote of more than half can

27

Leave it as is with a concurring vote of two-thirds or more

71

N/A

2

 Q: Concerning “the disparity in the relative weight of a vote” for the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, the Supreme Court has ruled that the last two elections for both houses were in a state of unconstitutionality. If “the disparity in the relative weight of a vote” for the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors is rectified, there will be an increase in the number of lawmakers elected from urban districts and a decrease in the number of those elected from rural districts. In this regard, which of the following opinions is close to your thinking? Pick only one.

 

It’s not a problem because it’s an outcome of impartial allocation based on the population ratio of urban and rural residents

31

It’s a problem because the voices of local people can hardly be reflected

67

N/A

2

 Q: In Japan, the prime minister may dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election if the prime minister judges it’s necessary to do so. In this regard, which of the following opinions is close to your thinking? Pick only one.

 

It’s favorable because the prime minister can appeal to the electorate

44

It’s unfavorable because Diet members are worried about elections and prone to neglect Diet activities

55

N/A

2

 Q: The government’s responsibility and authority in the event of major disasters and other emergencies are not stipulated in the Constitution but are stipulated in specific laws. In this regard, which of the following opinions is close to your thinking? Pick only one.

 

Amend the Constitution and expressly stipulate the government’s responsibility and authority

28

Avoid amending the Constitution and create a new law that expressly stipulates the government’s responsibility and authority

52

Leave it as is

17

O/A

0

N/A

3

 

Q: If there’s anything you think should be revised in the Constitution or should be added to the Constitution, pick as many as you like from among those listed below.

 

The Emperor’s status or the way the Emperor should be

15

Japan’s maintenance of armed forces for self-defense

39

Proactive international cooperation

19

The right to access government information

23

Personal information, privacy protection

25

Respect for family

14

The right to live in a good environment

32

The prime minister’s strengthened powers to deal with emergencies

21

A sound fiscal condition

44

The lower and upper houses’ respective roles

21

Central and local government roles

30

Establishment of a constitutional court

4

O/A

1

NIP

12

N/A

3

 Q: Do you think the political parties should have even more animated discussions on the Constitution?

 

Yes

72

No

24

N/A

4

 Q: The Diet has set up a Commission on the Constitution in each of its lower and upper chambers to submit draft amendments to the Constitution. What do you think the commission in each house should discuss on a priority basis? Pick up to three from among those listed below.

 

Japan’s war renunciation, Self-Defense Forces

62

Environmental rights, privacy rights, other new rights

17

The Diet, including its bicameral system

23

Local autonomy, including the regional system

17

The government’s authority in the event of major disasters, other emergencies

52

Procedures to amend the Constitution

14

Sound finance

52

O/A

1

NIP

5

N/A

2

 Polling methodology: The survey was implemented on a mail-in basis, with a total of 3,000 persons chosen from among all eligible voters throughout the country (at 250 locations on a stratified two-stage random-sampling basis). The questionnaire was sent out on Jan. 28 to those chosen for the survey and was sent back from 1,977 persons by Feb. 28. Valid answers were obtained from 1,927 persons (64%), excluding answers from those not subject to the survey.

 

 Breakdown of respondents: Male—48%, female—52%; persons in their 20s—10%, 30s—15%, 40s—18%, 50s—18%, 60s—21%, 70 and over—18%.

 

 Note: Figures rounded off. The total percentage of numerical values in graphs and tables may not add up to 100%. “0” indicates that the figure was below 0.5%.

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