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“Including SDF in Constitution” not gaining ground among public, media outlet polls

  • January 24, 2018
  • , Mainichi , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

In their January nationwide public opinion polls, media outlets probed the public’s views on revising the Constitution to explicitly state the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The results they found differed, however. Last May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed explicitly stating the existence of the SDF in Article 9 without changing paragraph 1 (renunciation of war) or paragraph 2 (renunciation of war potential) of the article. Public opinion, however, has not actually moved in step with the prime minister’s proposal. Although the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has tried to bring the party behind the prime minister’s proposal, it has run into difficulty.

 

In the NHK poll, 38% of pollees said “there is no need to amend Article 9,” while 30% said “paragraph 2 of Article 9 should be deleted and the purpose of the SDF should be clearly stated.” Only 16% selected the response closest to Abe’s proposal, namely, that “paragraph 2 of Article 9 be retained and the existence of the SDF added.”

 

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun poll, respondents were split, with 34% saying “paragraph 2 of Article 9 should be deleted and the nature and purposes of the SDF stated clearly” and 32% saying “paragraph 2 of Article 9 should be retained and provisions giving the grounds for the SDF added.”  

 

“Deleting paragraph 2” was likely listed as a choice in the two polls in light of the summary of LDP opinions released last December by the party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. In the summary, both the prime minister’s proposal and the proposal to “delete paragraph 2 and explicitly state the nature and purposes of the SDF” were listed because Former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and others strongly insisted that paragraph 2 be deleted.

 

The Mainichi Shimbun poll conducted on Jan. 20–21 gave pollees the option of “delete paragraph 2 of Article 9 and designate the SDF as possessing war potential.” Some 12% of pollees selected this option. There was a large gap between the figure for this response and that for “explicitly state the existence of the SDF while leaving paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 untouched,” which attracted 31% of pollees.

 

An LDP source comments: “The essence of the proposal to delete paragraph 2 is to militarize the SDF, but this is not clear from the LDP’s summary of opinions so pollees backed it.” The results of the NHK and Yomiuri polls are all the more “surprising” because the LDP Constitutional Revision Promotion Headquarters anticipated that “retention of paragraph 2” would attract the majority of pollees.

 

Support for the prime minister’s proposal would not necessarily increase if more people knew that the proposal to delete paragraph 2 is aimed at allowing the SDF to have military capabilities. In the Nov. 2017 Mainichi Shimbun poll, some 33% said they “approve” of the constitutional amendment proposal to explicitly state the existence of the SDF while retaining Article 9’s paragraphs 1 and 2, while 29% said they disapprove. If the question is posed in a yes-no format, there tends to be less of a gap between the figures.

 

On Jan. 23, the LDP decided to hold a training program on the Constitution for LDP local assembly members. A top official at the LDP Constitution Revision Promotion Headquarters said, “To get an affirmative majority of all votes cast in the national referendum, we need to explain the amendment in an easy-to-understand fashion.”

 

Findings of major opinion polls on explicitly stating the existence of the SDF in the Constitution by revising Article 9

Mainichi Shimbun (Jan. 20–21)

Explicitly state the existence of the SDF while leaving paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 untouched

31%

Delete paragraph 2 of Article 9 and designate the SDF as possessing war potential

12%

There is no need to explicitly state the existence of the SDF in the Constitution

21%

Don’t know

27%

Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 12–14)

Retain paragraph 2 of Article 9 and add provisions giving the grounds for the SDF

32%

Delete paragraph 2 of Article 9 and clearly state the nature and purposes of the SDF

34%

There is no need to explicitly state the existence of the SDF in the Constitution

22%

NHK (Jan. 6–8)

Retain paragraph 2 of Article 9 and add the existence of the SDF

16%

Delete paragraph 2 of Article 9, which stipulates the renunciation of maintaining war potential, and clearly state the purposes of the SDF

30%

There is no need to amend Article 9

38%

Note: Each of above items is one of the multiple-choice options given in the relevant poll.

 

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