June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell to 43 percent in an opinion poll published today, with more than half the respondents opposing his push to broaden the role of Japan’s defense forces.
Backing for Abe was down 6 percentage points from a month earlier in the Asahi newspaper poll, the lowest reading in an Asahi survey since he took office in December 2012. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party is struggling to reach a deal with its Buddhist-backed coalition partner, New Komeito, to reinterpret the pacifist constitution to let Japan defend allies.
Abe is seeking to bolster Japan’s defense stance in the face of a territorial dispute in the East China Sea with an increasingly assertive China. He has boosted defense spending, expended political capital on passing an unpopular state secrets bill, eased restrictions on weapons exports and pushed for closer military ties with other Asian nations.
The LDP on June 13 presented New Komeito with its guideline for a resolution expanding Japan’s defense role. It missed a deadline to get it passed by cabinet before the end of the parliamentary session which ended yesterday.
The percentage of respondents saying they did not support Abe’s cabinet rose to 33 percent from 30 percent a month earlier. More than half of respondents said they did not believe Abe’s economic policies had led to an increase in employment or a rise in wages.
On security policy, about 56 percent of respondents to the Asahi poll said they were opposed to the exercise of collective self-defense. Japan has so far interpreted the U.S.-imposed pacifist constitution to mean that it could not defend allies if they were under attack.
Two thirds of poll respondents said it was not appropriate to introduce such a policy via cabinet resolution without changing the constitution. Three quarters of respondents said there had been insufficient debate on the topic.
A separate poll carried out by Kyodo news at the weekend put opposition to the collective self-defense plan at 55.4 percent from 48.1 percent a month earlier. The Asahi newspaper surveyed 1,756 people by phone on June 21-22 and did not give a margin of error.
To contact the reporter on this story: Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com Neil Western