TOKYO -- A thin majority of the Japanese electorate favors resolving the constitutionality issue surrounding the Self-Defense Forces by adding language recognizing the armed forces to the war-renouncing charter, a recent survey shows.
The Nikkei Inc./TV Tokyo telephone poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, asked whether respondents support writing the SDF into Article 9 without altering the existing language renouncing war and barring Japan from maintaining a military. Supporters outnumbered opponents by 51% to 36%.
The idea seems to have more traction among men, with support reaching 59% and opposition at 34%. Women are more cautious, with 40% backing the change and 38% against it.
The issue seems to split the public along party lines. Support totaled 72% among those aligned with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and reached roughly 60% among those backing the conservative Nippon Ishin no Kai, which also favors amending the constitution. But the idea is not quite as popular among supporters of the LDP's junior coalition partner, Komeito, with opposition reaching roughly 50% and support around 40%.
In explaining his amendment proposal, Abe has cited the fact that some legal scholars view the SDF as unconstitutional.
Among supporters of the opposition Democratic Party, a solid 67% were against the revision. Among self-identified independents, support came to 37% and opposition 42%.
Abe's goal of having a revised constitution take effect in 2020 drew 43% support and 39% opposition.
The results did not signal the level of public enthusiasm that could propel Abe's ruling coalition to act. "With overall support of just 51%, we are still too scared to push for a public referendum," a senior coalition source said. For the LDP, support from Komeito backers is crucial.
"In order to convince party supporters, we need to make clear that we are not changing the current interpretation of the charter that Japan will use force only when attacked," a top Komeito official said.
The scandal surrounding the creation of a veterinary school and the railroading of an anti-conspiracy bill through the lower house seem to have taken a toll on the cabinet's approval rating, which fell 4 points from April to 56%. Its disapproval rating rose 4 points to 36%, continuing the uptrend since the start of this year.
The survey also found overwhelming support for allowing Imperial households headed by female members to ensure the continuation of the monarchy down the road, with 73% backing the idea and 15% opposing it.
The nationwide survey via random-digit dialing drew 1,595 responses, for a response rate of 48.1%.