TOKYO -- Public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet took a beating after the rushed passage of unpopular national security bills in parliament Saturday, with many voters complaining about the lack of explanation from the government, the latest Nikkei opinion poll showed.
The approval rating fell 6 percentage points from the end of August to 40% in the survey, conducted Saturday and Sunday. The disapproval rate rose 7 points to 47%.
Cabinet support hit a record low 38% after the controversial security bills cleared the Diet's lower house in July, with disapproval also hitting an all-time high of 50%. The numbers rebounded somewhat in August, but the legislation's enactment amid growing protests appears to have taken a toll.
The legislation, which expands Japan's military role overseas, has not gained public assent, with 54% of respondents disapproving of its passage in the current Diet session and 31% supporting it.
Among cabinet supporters, 67% favored the passage, but the figure was a mere 3% among those who do not back the cabinet. Support was 41% among men and 23% among women.
The public is particularly troubled by what it saw as insufficient efforts in retail persuasion by the government. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the government failed to provide adequate explanation to make its case, as opposed to 12% who thought the government did enough. Efforts at explanation were insufficient for 93% of nonsupporters, while even 61% of those who support the Abe cabinet thought the explanation was inadequate, outnumbering the 28% who thought otherwise.
"Japan needs the new defense law because of the changing security environment, including the rise of China," a government official said. "We could not provide specific explanations out of diplomatic consideration."
The defense bills enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense, or use force to defend allies under attack. But only 28% of respondents said Japan should do so, up 1 point from August, while 53% opposed Japan assuming such an expanded defense role, down 2 points.
The planned relocation of the Futenma U.S. air base in Okinawa also remains unpopular, with 51% saying the government should reassess its transfer plan. Only 32% said the relocation should be carried out as planned.
Asked why they back the cabinet, 36% of supporters said they liked its international savvy, up 11 points from August, followed by 32% who cited leadership, up 4 points. As for nonsupporters, 48% said they don't like that the Liberal Democratic Party leads the cabinet, up 10 points, followed by 38% who cited poor government and party management and another 38% who dislike its policies.
The telephone survey was conducted via random-digit dialing, reaching 1,334 households with at least one eligible voter. Valid responses were provided by 960 respondents, or 72%.