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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #359: August 17, 2006

Over 50% Approve of Yasukuni Shrine Visit

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Over 50% Approve of Yasukuni Shrine Visit
The Yomiuri Shimbun


After the visit by Prime Minister Koizumi to Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday, there have been numerous surveys conducted to seek the view of the people, by TV stations, newspapers, news agencies, and various websites including blogs maintained by individuals.

It is well known that the results acquired through surveys must be handled very carefully. From the structure of the questionnaires to the methods of how they are displayed, or proper selections of respondents to the intentions of the conductors, there are many factors to distort the real opinions of the people. We experience how reliable - or unreliable - these "poll results" are every time an election is held.

Now, considering enough warning has been provided, following are some of the poll results on the PM's visit to the shrine.

In short, the writer was not able to find a single survey result indicating the majority denouncing the visit by the PM to the shrine. At this point, it seems fairly safe to assume that the majority of the Japanese people support the visit.

Actually, the Yomiuri article introduced above is one of the very few reporting the results of the survey conducted by the media itself. Other media, including other major newspapers have conducted their own surveys, but it seems either they are still analyzing the results, or have decided to simply ignore it.

As written in the article, according to the survey by Yomiuri which polled 1,832 eligible voters, 1,104, or 60.3 percent, of whom were interviewed by telephone, 53 percent of the respondents either "support" or "somewhat support" Koizumi's visit to the shrine, while 39 percent said "they do not."

It might worth noting that Yomiuri was one of the major media, if not most prominent, to voice against the visit, as indicated in its editorial of Wednesday, though rather casually, stated, "After all, the government should discuss a new way to mourn the war dead, including the construction of a new national facility or the expansion of Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery."

The people's views first became visible in the evening of the visit on Tuesday, when NHK, the national broadcasting company supported by public money, aired a live TV program, in which invited the viewers to vote real-time via mobile phones, whether they support the shrine visit by the PM or not. In the short period of while the program was televised, 40,362 people responded, voluntarily and paying for the phone charges, of which, 25,636, or 63.5% was in support of, and 14,726, or 36.5% against.

Kyodo, a major news agency, conducted a set of survey also, which is quoted by a number of media. It states, "A total of 51.5 percent approved of Koizumi's visit to the shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of the war, while 41.8 percent opposed it. ... However, 44.9 percent were opposed to the next prime minister visiting the Shinto shrine and only 39.6 percent said Koizumi's successor should make a trip." (Note: The flow on this report is that it does not state what and how the questions were asked. Especially terms such as should and may needs be carefully used - and reported.)

During the while, many surveys were offered on the web for people to respond. One of which was by Yahoo Japan, which asked on its site how the visit is viewed, to choose from seven(!) alternative responses. They were: (The visit;) 1-should pose no significant problem, 2-should pose no serious problem despite there may be the issue of diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, 3-shoud pose no serious problem despite there may be the issue of separation of government and religion, 4-is unacceptable because of the issue of diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, 5-is unacceptable because of the issue of separation of government and religion, 6-unacceptable under any circumstances, and 7-don't know. (Whew!) Of the 54,717 respondents over the period of 24 hours, those chose the first alternative, was 37,455, or 69%, whereas the runner-up was the fifth choice, at 3,813, or 7% of the total. (Note: Obviously, the questionnaire is structured very poorly. It is cluttered, and it does not provide alternatives for those who believe the PM should have visited the shrine.

Livedoor, considered one of the major portal sites in Japan, asked more simply, whether to approve or not. The survey seems to be still going on, but after more than a day since it started, it reports 82.68% of respondents to approve, and 17.31% not. (Note: The flaw here is that there is no number of respondents, not even the total, indicated.) Other sites located by the writer show more extreme results, all of five or six sites showing 80% or more approval rates.

Assuming that the conductors of the surveys are honest, it might be interesting to see if there is any correlation between those who are close to internet and those who support Yasukuni/Koizumi. On the other hand, however, it might indicate that there might be unrevealed flaws in the surveys conducted by conventional media.

In any case, for good or ill, it seems that the majority of the Japanese people do support the PM's visit to Yasukuni Shrine. In addition, it might worth reiterating that the government of Japan is established based on the free vote by the people.

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