Forty-one percent of voters have no problem with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in December, but 46 percent say he should not have gone, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows.
Abe's visit to the Tokyo shrine honoring the war dead triggered a sharp backlash from China and South Korea because 14 Class-A war criminals are also enshrined there. Russia and the United States were among countries that leveled strong criticism at Abe for exacerbating already strained relations with Japan's two powerful Asian neighbors.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said Abe should take the criticism seriously, but 40 percent said it is no big deal, according to the nationwide telephone survey carried out Jan. 25 and 26.
Abe’s visit was the first by an incumbent prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went on Aug. 15, 2006. His timing was particularly galling to Beijing and Seoul because the date marked the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.
An Asahi Shimbun survey carried out immediately following the former prime minister’s 2006 visit to Yasukuni showed 49 percent supported Koizumi paying his respects, compared with 37 percent who said he should not have done so.
The latest poll also showed the support rate for the Abe Cabinet has rebounded to 50 percent. It was the first time that the figure reached 50 since an early November survey, which showed a 53 percent support rating for Abe’s Cabinet.
Of those who back the Abe administration, 56 percent said they support the prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni, compared with 35 percent who said they were against it.
Although 20 percent of non-supporters of his Cabinet said they back Abe’s pilgrimage to the site, 70 percent said they do not. Among voters with no political affiliation, 31 percent approved of the visit, while 50 percent did not.
By age, 59 percent of respondents in their 50s said Abe should not have paid his respects, compared with 30 percent who supported his visit.
Of those who said the latest visit to the shrine was inappropriate, 80 percent said the prime minister should take the criticism from other countries seriously, whereas 67 percent of respondents who backed Abe’s visit said foreign criticism is not a big deal.
Fifty percent of all the surveyed voters said they agree with the idea of setting up a neutral state memorial facility for the war dead that could replace Yasukuni Shrine. Twenty-nine percent said they are against the idea.
With regard to the nation's 50 nuclear reactors, which are all currently offline, 31 percent of the respondents said they are in favor of restarting them, compared with 56 percent who opposed the plan.
The nationwide survey also asked about the election in February for a new governor of Tokyo. Thirty-eight percent said they believe it is appropriate to make the nuclear problem the main issue in the election, while 49 percent said it was inappropriate.
The latest telephone poll covered 3,439 voters and received valid responses from 1,914, or 56 percent.