If the government of Abe Shinzo thought that the protracted and painful argument with the New Komeito over the phrasing of the July 1 announcement of a reinterpretation of the Constitution allowing for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense was going to impress the voters, then the government probably received a nasty shock from pages 1, 4 and 10 of today's Yomiuri Shimbun. The Yomiuri, whose coverage of all things Abe has been sycophantic, could not sugarcoat the startling results of its most recent (July 2-3) public opinion poll.
First were the raw Cabinet support numbers showing a sharp shift since the last (May30-June 1) poll:
Do you support the Abe Cabinet? (1 June 2014 figure)
Support 48% (57%)
Do not support 40$ (31%)
The 48% is a new low in approval for the Abe Cabinet (in April 2013 support was at 74%!) and 40% is a new high in disapproval.
A majority of the voters still have confidence in Abe's economic program: 49% say they appreciate (hyoka) it, only a slight downward shift from the 52% reading of last month. However, the level of doubt in Abe's economic plans has risen a bit more, from 33% to 38%, despite or perhaps because of the June announcement of the revised Third Arrow structural reforms.
It is in explaining its actions as regards national security matters, however, that the Abe government has really failed in its efforts, such as they were, at public outreach. Even with the pliant Yomiuri bending over backward to phrase the questions in the most government-friendly way possible, the voters showed little or no mercy.
Q: The Government, revising the interpretation of the Constitution in the case of a clear and present danger linked to the rights of the citizens in a fundamental way, has decided to to make it possible to make use of collective self defense to the minimum extent necessary. Do you appreciate the ability to the limited use of the right of collective self defense?
Do not appreciate 51%
Kaboooooom! Not even the loading up the question with positive messages could shift the needle: the majority of the population is against CSD, even in a limited way.
Until this most recent survey, the Yomiuri and its revisionist counterpart on the right the Sankei Shimbun have been obfuscating this finding, burying the results by offering a weasel triply divided set of of options: "Yes, we must completely exercise the right of collective self defense " "Yes, but we must do so to the minimum extent possible" and "No, it is not necessary." In that case, the respondents, in order to appear non-doctrinal, chose the wishful thinking "Yes, but to the minimal extent possible option (61% chose this option in the last May 30-June 1 poll).
Posing the question of supporting the Abe Government's CSD as the center-left and left news organizations have done, as a simple yes-or-no, up-or-down question, generates a greater than 50% opposition to CSD, just as the center-left and left polls have been finding for some time now.
It gets worse for the government. Even with the pollsters stacking the deck by saying that the Cabinet Decision approving the exercise of the right of collective self defense strengthens (not "may strengthen" or "is likely to strengthen" -- no, "strengthens") the Japan-U.S. alliance, the decision to exercise the right of CSD will not, in the eyes of the voters, improve deterrence of aggression:
Q: Japan by making it possible to exercise the right of collective self-defense has strengthened the Japan-U.S. alliance. From doing this do you believe Japan has improved its power to prevent the receiving of an attack from a foreign country, that is to say has improved its deterrence, or not?
Deterrence has been improved 39%
Deterrence has not been improved 49%
Q: Do you believe that the Government has sufficiently explained the issues surrounding the exercise of collective self-defense?
Have explained sufficiently 13%
Have not yet sufficiently explained 81%
Red Alert! Red Alert! Public not on board!
And for a result that will give the United States Departments of State and Defense nightmares...
Q: If the Self Defense Forces could shoot down a ballistic missile headed for the American territory of Guam or the State of Hawaii, would you agree with or oppose a shoot-down?
Agree with 37%
Mr. Abe, you, someone you trust or just someone who seems to have some semblance of giving a damn about this blessed and needs to go on national television right now and first ask Japanese voters if they have any sense of how many thousands of Japanese, both tourists and residents, are on Guam and Hawaii on any given day...and then maybe, rather than explaining to the voters the mechanics of the contrived scenarios the Abe government used in its attempt to drum up public support for CSD, simply sit down and tell the citizenry about the moral imperatives we all must accept regarding the need to protect innocent civilians, be they friends or strangers, from impending harm, unless we are willing to be thought monsters?