The Japan Agricultural News survey shows government support rate drops to 33 percent, with 70 percent giving low grades to farm policies

TOKYO, Aug. 24 – Thirty-three percent of respondents of The Japan Agricultural News survey supported Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, while 67 percent said they don’t support the administration, the highest disapproval rate since Abe came into power in 2012. As the reason for not supporting the Abe administration, the largest percentage of people – nearly 60 percent – gave their distrust for Abe, apparently having in mind the government’s eagerness to conduct drastic overhaul of the agriculture industry and the lack of sufficient explanation regarding a controversial approval of a new veterinary department by school operator Kake Gauen.

The survey was conducted in August on 511 readers of The Japan Agricultural News via email and fax, and 308 people responded.

The government support rate dropped 15 percentage points from 48 percent marked in the previous survey conducted in March after the government compiled a draft bill aimed at strengthening competitiveness of the nation’s agriculture industry. The support rate was the same as the one marked in March 2016 when the Diet was about to start discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement which had been signed the previous month.

Meanwhile, the percentage of those who don’t support the Abe administration rose 16 percentage points from the previous survey, posting an even higher percentage than 61 percent posted in the July 2015 survey conducted after the bill to revise the agricultural cooperative law was passed in the Lower House and 65 percent marked in March 2016.

The declining support rate is believed to reflect the deepening distrust in the Abe administration which has been trying to implement a drastic agricultural reform. Eight agriculture-related bills were passed in the latest ordinary Diet session, including a bill aimed at rationalizing distribution of farm products and reducing prices of farm equipment and a bill designed to give more distribution options to milk farmers. The government also reached a broad deal recently with the European Union on an economic partnership agreement. Furthermore, the government has not yet given a convincing account of Abe’s influence-peddling allegations regarding the Kake Gakuen case. Asked to give reasons for the disapproval, 58 percent responded they don’t trust Abe, followed by 22 percent who said the government doesn’t seem to attach importance to food and agriculture and 14 percent who said they don’t think highly of the government policies.

Regarding the Abe administration’s farm policies, 26 percent of the respondents said they give high or relatively high marks to the policies, down 3 percentage points from the previous survey. Those who gave low marks to the policies or do not support them at all came to 69 percent, up 5 percentage points.

Only 24 percent said they have high expectations of Ken Saito, who was newly appointed agriculture minister in the latest Cabinet reshuffle, while 41 percent, the largest percentage, said they are still not sure, indicating their wait-and-see attitude on Saito’s approach towards agricultural reform.

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