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Politics

Abe's support drops 7 points to 45% over casino law

Japanese PM pays price for focusing on unpopular legislation

Abe's ruling coalition pushed controversial measures in the just-ended Diet session.

TOKYO -- Public discontent has surpassed support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following the railroading of a controversial casino resort law through parliament and a bungled initial flood response, the latest Nikkei survey shows.

Voter support for his cabinet stood at 45%, down from 52% in late June, while disapproval rose 5 percentage points to 47%, according to the survey conducted Friday through Sunday. Support among women tanked 9 points to 36% while falling 4 points to 52% among men.

Diplomatic efforts on North Korea appear to be losing momentum as well, contributing to lower public expectations for Abe.

The legislation allowing casino resorts at up to three locations in the country is broadly unpopular, with opposition surpassing support at 60% to 27%. The measure is particularly disliked by women, with 68% opposed.

A law adding six seats to the Diet's upper house despite a population decline similarly lacks support, with 56% of respondents expressing objections and 28% supporting it. The measure came under fire as trying to help ruling Liberal Democratic Party candidates who will not be able to run because of redistricting.

"The people are unhappy that [the Abe government] pushed the casino law and upper house reform over measures that improve their lives," said Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Diet affairs chief of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party.

The public also found the government's initial response to the devastating floods in western Japan disappointing, with disapproval eclipsing approval 46% to 39%. Reports came out that Abe and other top LDP members were holding a party on July 5, when torrential rains caused flooding and mudslides in the region.

The decline in support is significant in part because Abe's approval edged up in June on expectations of his diplomatic savviness. The summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un that month produced a denuclearization pledge by Pyongyang, heightening hopes of progress.

But now, denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled. An overwhelming 76% of respondents said they do not think a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is attainable, compared with the 15% seeing it as possible.

The public is divided on Abe meeting with Kim as well, with 49% saying such talks should take place quickly while 43% see no need for a hasty summit.

Despite Abe's repeated pledges, 71% of respondents do not expect a resolution to past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea, far outnumbering the 21% who do.

The survey by Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo received valid responses from 965 men and women nationwide via random-digit dialing, for a response rate of 47.5%.

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