Japanese are almost evenly divided over the government’s response to the novel coronavirus crisis, a joint opinion poll conducted by The Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN) on February 22 and 23 showed.
46.3% of the respondents “in favor of government handling” of the coronavirus crisis, and nearly the same number — about 45.3% — “not in favor of the government responses” to the virus crisis.
The nationwide survey also found that the approval rating for the Japanese Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slid 8.4 percentage points from the previous poll on January 11-12, to 36.2 percent. At the same time, the disapproval rate rose 7.8 points, to 46.7 percent. It is the first time in one year and seven months since July 2018 that the disapproval rate for the Abe administration has surpassed its approval rating.
The poll was conducted via phone calls with the random digit dialing method, with 1,040 respondents from all over Japan.
The new coronavirus, which broke out in China, has killed 2,804 and infected 77,660 others as of Tuesday evening, February 25. Excluding the cases on the Diamond Princess that’s quarantined at the port of Yokohama, Japan has confirmed at least 156 infections and one death as of Tuesday.
Replying to a question posed in the survey about how the respondents were worried about the new coronavirus risks, 85% of those polled said they were either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned.”
Only 59.4% of those polled said they were informed of what symptoms the government had cited as yardsticks by which people should make judgments whether to consult with medical experts about the coronavirus-related health hazards.
Most of those polled were unhappy with the advice, with 68.6% saying they thought the way the government provided information about the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, was “neither sufficient nor appropriate.”
The Japanese government has an entry ban on foreigners coming from some regions of China, including the province of Hubei, where the virus originated. Among the poll respondents, 67.7% were in favor of expanding the temporary ban to cover all other places in China. This far exceeded the 25.1% who were opposed to the expanded ban.
Pros and Cons of Xi’s Planned Visit to Japan
Sentiments were also split between those who thought Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan in spring should push through, and those who thought it should be canceled. Those who agreed the Chinese leader should come to Japan as planned reached 43.8% Slightly fewer, 41.7%, said they would take exception to the visit.
In the joint Sankei-FNN survey in December 2019, those saying yes to Xi’s proposed travel to Japan stood at 49%, considerably surpassing the figure of 37.8% who were opposed to his visit. The changes in the figures in the past couple of months were considered to have been caused by public concern over the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A parliamentary grouping, which calls itself the “Group Fighting for the Cause of Protecting Japan’s Dignity and National Interests” within the Liberal Democratic Party, Japan’s major ruling coalition party, has been expressing reservations about Xi’s visit to Japan. Given the international criticism of how China has handled the outbreak, Xi’s state visit to Japan would be “tantamount to allowing the Chinese side to utilize the visit politically as if the expansion of the COVID-19 infections were put under control,” an official of the group said. (RELATED ARTICLE: Xi Jinping’s Official Visit Will Create Momentum for China But Few Benefits for Japan)
Author: The Sankei Shimbun