Abe’s Support Hits Two-Year High After North Korea Nuclear Test

  • 81% of Yomiuri respondents want tougher North Korea sanctions
  • Respondents divided on whether Abe should stay on past 2018

Shinzo Abe.

Photographer: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet has risen to a two-year high in separate opinion polls published this week by public broadcaster NHK and the Yomiuri newspaper.

The Abe administration had the support of 62 percent of respondents in a survey by the Yomiuri conducted between Sept. 9 and 11, up eight percentage points from a month earlier. A survey published by NHK Monday put support at 57 percent, up four percentage points on the previous month. Another poll published by the Asahi newspaper found his support had risen to 52 percent.

One factor in the improving perceptions of Abe, who has increased the defense budget and sought to expand the role of the military, may have been North Korea’s fifth nuclear weapons test last week. About 81 percent of respondents to the Yomiuri survey said Japan should step up sanctions against its unpredictable neighbor.

Some 68 percent of respondents to the NHK poll said they supported an agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe at a meeting earlier this month for Asia’s two biggest economies to persevere with dialogue to prevent any incidents around disputed islands in the East China Sea. Even so, a majority of respondents to the Asahi survey said they didn’t have high expectations that the meeting would relieve tensions.

Abe’s Future

Among areas that respondents want the government to focus on, 24 percent said social welfare, 23 percent pointed to economic stimulus measures, and 15 percent chose foreign affairs in the NHK poll.

The polls found a generally favorable attitude to Abe’s policy of revising a tax break for housewives, with two-thirds of respondents to the Yomiuri poll in favor, while 32 percent of NHK respondents were also supporting it with 15 percent against it.

The surveys conflicted, however, on how long Abe should stay in office. The NHK survey found that 30 percent of respondents were opposed to Abe staying on as leader of his party past the end of his current term in September 2018, compared with 28 percent in favor. The Yomiuri poll showed more respondents were in favor of him staying on.

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