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Politics

Abe's approval plunges 11 points after missteps on coronavirus aid

At 38% support, Japanese leader matches nadir of second stint

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stay-at-home video, mask program and lump-sum payments were viewed as mishandled by much of the population.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The approval rating of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government sank 11 points from the previous month in June to 38% in a new Nikkei survey, matching the lowest level during his second stint in office.

While Japan has logged relatively few coronavirus infections, the economic response has been criticized as too slow, especially the 100,000 yen ($930) cash payments to every resident. That money has been slow to arrive to recipients, critics say, while people read reports of South Korea swiftly making payments in a similar program.

On the measures, 73% of respondents said they were too slow, while only 18% said they were fast. Abe also abandoned last month an unpopular effort to raise the retirement age for top prosecutors. The move was seen as an attempt to keep a political ally in an office that is meant to be neutral.

On the response to the pandemic itself, Abe fared much better. Disapproval fell 9 points from the previous survey to 46%, and approval rose 8 points to 46%, eliminating the 17-point gap recorded last month.

Abe also saw better numbers when it came to his leadership. In the May poll, 35% said he lacked leadership ability, but only 30% said so this time.

The government's disapproval rating rose 9 points to 51%, exceeding approval for the first time since the February poll. Disapproval tended to increase with respondents' ages. For people in their 60s, disapproval reached 66%.

Approval of Abe's second government, launched in December 2012, last dropped to 38% in July 2015, when he unsuccessfully pushed for legal changes that would have widened Japan's scope for military action.

The telephone survey was conducted by Nikkei Research between Friday and Sunday. The response rate was 48.9%.

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