Japan PM support dips, especially among women

TOKYO, Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has lost more public support, particularly among female voters after his health minister referred to women as “birth-giving machines,” a newspaper poll showed on Monday.

Abe’s approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, down 4 points from January, while the number of voters who disapprove of his government has risen 5 points to 41 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun.

Among female voters, who had been strong backers of Abe, those who gave him the thumbs down increased 8 points from January to 37 percent, outnumbering the 36 percent who said they support him. That support rating was down 7 points from January.

The Mainichi results are in line with those by other media showing a steady decline in public support, seen as a headache for Abe ahead of an upper house election in July.

The prime minister enjoyed 67 percent support when he took office last September, according to the Mainichi survey.

The Mainichi attributed the continued dip in ratings to the comments by Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa in late January, which caused a furore among ordinary Japanese and led opposition parties to call for his resignation.

Yanagisawa has apologized repeatedly but has refused to step down, and Abe has stood by him.

Asked to give reasons for not supporting the government, 38 percent of respondents cited gaffes by Abe’s ministers, while 59 percent said Abe should have fired Yanagisawa. Only 36 percent approved of his decision to keep the minister. A potential fresh headache for Abe emerged over the weekend, when Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki was was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying in a speech that “Japan is an extremely homogeneous country.”

The comment recalled a similar statement by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, which prompted strong criticism, mainly from the indigenous Ainu people.

The Mainichi’s nationwide poll of 1,063 voters was carried out on Saturday and Sunday.