Abe’s approval plunges 11 points after missteps on coronavirus aid

TOKYO — The approval rating of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government sank 11 points from the previous month in June to 38% in a new Nikkei survey, matching the lowest level during his second stint in office.

While Japan has logged relatively few coronavirus infections, Abe’s widely panned economic response to them appears to be the biggest driver of the fall. His stay-in-place video where he told citizens stuck inside to watch TV or drink tea was viewed as out of touch. The delivery of two “Abenomasks” to every household was marred by complaints over quality and other issues. Abe was also forced in April to retreat on his opposition to a 100,000 yen ($930) stimulus payment to every resident.

On the economic measures, 73% of respondents said they were too slow, while only 18% said they were too fast. Abe was also abandoned last month an unpopular effort to raise the retirement age for top prosecutors.

On the response to the pandemic itself, Abe fared much better. Disapproval fell 9 points from the previous survey to 46%, and approval rose 8 points to 46%, eliminating the 17-point gap recorded last month.

Abe also saw better numbers when it came to his leadership. In the May poll, 35% said he lacked leadership ability, but only 30% said so this time.

The government’s disapproval rating rose 9 points to 51%, exceeding approval for the first time since the February poll. Disapproval tended to increase with respondents’ ages. For people in their 60s, disapproval reached 66%.

Approval of Abe’s second government, launched in December 2012, last dropped to 38% was in July 2015, when he unsuccessfully pushed for legal changes that would have widened Japan’s scope for military action.

The telephone survey was conducted by Nikkei Research between Friday and Sunday. The response rate was 48.9%.

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