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Opinion poll analysis (Part 2): Geographical disparity in support for amendment of Article 9

  • December 27, 2017
  • , Nikkei , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

In its public opinion poll to probe views around the time of the [October 2017] Lower House election, the Nikkei asked respondents if they are in favor of or opposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s idea of adding to Article 9 a provision to explicitly state the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) while leaving the current text of the article unchanged. Looking at the results by prefecture reveals a disparity in sentiment by geographical area. Backing is also linked to the region’s cabinet support rate.


The nationwide poll was conducted on Oct. 10–11, as official campaigning for the Lower House election started on Oct. 10. A total of 78,285 responses were received. Nationwide, 35% of pollees were in favor and 42% were opposed to Prime Minister Abe’s idea for amending Article 9.


Yamaguchi Prefecture has highest approval rating for revision of Article 9


The prefecture with highest approval rating of the amendment proposed by Prime Minister Abe is Yamaguchi at 45%. The prefecture’s cabinet support rate is also the highest in the nation at 56%, easily outpacing Toyama, which is in second place at 47%. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, who represents Yamaguchi district 3 in the Lower House, says, “Traditionally, this area has a strong conservative base. It has backed the government since the Meiji Restoration [of 1868]. (Momentum for constitutional amendment) is high because this is the Prime Minister’s constituency and next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.”


After Yamaguchi, the prefecture with the highest backing for the Prime Minister’s vision for Article 9 is Wakayama Prefecture at 42%. After Wakayama are Ishikawa and Nara Prefectures at 41%. Eight of the top 10 pro-amendment prefectures are also among the top 10 prefectures in terms of cabinet support rate as well.


In contrast, 54% of Okinawans and 52% of Nagano residents are opposed to the Prime Minister’s idea to amend Article 9. Okinawa has the lowest cabinet support rate in the nation at 28%. Nagano Prefecture has the highest cabinet nonsupport rate in the nation at 56%.


Liberal Party Secretary-General Denny Tamaki, who was elected to the Lower House by Okinawa district 3, describes the complex emotions of the residents of his prefecture: “Most people recognize the contribution the SDF makes in disaster relief, but they also remember the burden of the U.S. military bases and the inhumane acts of the Japanese Imperial Army in the final days of the Pacific War.” “If the SDF are written into the Constitution, there will be opposition to the security legislation (which permits the limited exercise of collective self-defense),” he continues.


LDP member Konosuke Kokuba, who lost the race in Okinawa district 1 but captured a Lower House seat in the Kyushu proportional bloc, says, “Perceptions on the issues differ by generation, as well. (If there were a referendum on constitutional amendment) the only way forward would be to thoroughly and resolutely explain the issues.”


An opposition party Diet member elected to represent Nagano Prefecture in the Lower House says: “The people of Nagano have a liberal bent, and non-LDP candidates are comparatively strong in the constituency of the late Tsutomu Hata, former prime minister. Opposition to the security legislation persists.”


Correlation with cabinet support rate


[A “correlation coefficient” measures the robustness of the relationship between two variables.] The correlation coefficient between the approval rate for the Prime Minister’s proposal by prefecture and the cabinet support rate by prefecture is 0.875, meaning a strong positive correlation. Namely, areas with a high cabinet support rate tend to be strongly in favor of Abe’s proposal, while areas with a low cabinet support rate tend not to be.


Constitutional amendment and cabinet support are, by nature, separate issues. For the constitution to be amended, both houses of the Diet must pass the amendment proposal by a majority of two-thirds or more of all members. After that, a national referendum is held. Amendments are not initiated by the cabinet.


In May 2017, Prime Minister Abe proposed the amendment to Article 9 and expressed his desire to bring into force a new Constitution in 2020, so it seems that constitutional amendment is a key issue for the Abe cabinet. A top LDP official expresses concern: “The results of a national referendum could easily be seen as an expression of confidence or no confidence in the cabinet rather than approval or disapproval of the amendment proposal itself.”


A national referendum is held between 60 and 180 days after passage of the amendment by each chamber of the Diet. During that period, both those in favor and those opposed to the amendments will strengthen their cases. If the amendment of Article 9 to explicitly state the existence of the SDF in the Constitution is put to a referendum, it looks like strategies to expand support will be developed for each region in light of the fact that public sentiment varies by geographical area.



Are you in favor of or opposed to Prime Minister Abe’s idea of adding

to Article 9 a provision to explicitly state the existence of the SDF

while leaving the current text of the article unchanged?

Prefectures more in favor than opposed

(in favor/opposed, %)

Prefectures more opposed than in favor

(opposed/in favor, %)

(1) Yamaguchi


(1) Okinawa


(2) Wakayama


(2) Nagano


(3) Ishikawa


(3) Iwate


(3) Nara


(4) Hokkaido


(5) Osaka


(4) Miyagi


(5) Kagawa


(6) Fukushima


(7) Tokushima


(6) Kochi


(7) Toyama


(8) Mie


(9) Hyogo


(9) Tottori


(9) Okayama


(9) Yamagata




(9) Gifu


Note: Poll was conducted on Oct. 10–11, 2017.





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