Yomiuri poll: Opinion evenly divided on govt handling of pandemic

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sign saying “Temporary closure of whole store” was posted at a department store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on April 8, 2020, the day after the first declaration of the state of emergency.

Public opinion was evenly split on how Japan as a whole has responded to the novel coronavirus and how successful government measures have been, according to a nationwide opinion poll conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun in March and April.

Asked if they thought that Japanese society as a whole was effectively responding to the pandemic, 46% of respondents answered they “think so,” while 53% said they “think not,” including responses qualified with “if I had to choose” for both answers.

In regard to the Japanese government’s handling of the crisis, the respondents were asked if they thought Japan was more successful than other East Asian governments such as China and Taiwan. The answers were split almost exactly, with 49% saying they “think so” and 50% “think not.”

The novel coronavirus began surging in China in January last year before spreading to the rest of the world. But China was able to contain the virus with tight lockdowns in areas where the infection appeared likely to spread. Taiwan was able to limit the spread by using lessons learned during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 that claimed many lives.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A staff member at Tokyo Skytree provides information on GoTo Travel campaign coupons in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 1, 2020.

Asked if Japan has handled the pandemic better than Western countries such as the United States and Britain, 60% of respondents “think so,” well above the 39% who answered “think not.”

This reflects the fact that while vaccinations in the U.S. are progressing better than in Japan, the number of new infections per day there has remained in the 30,000 to 80,000 range since the beginning of April.

When asked for reactions to each of eight measures taken by the central or local governments to deal with the novel coronavirus, opinions were sharply divided.

The measure that gained the most approval with 96% was “free vaccinations,” followed by 85% in favor of the “declaration of a state of emergency,” and 79% for “uniform cash payment of ¥100,000 per person.”

In contrast, the distribution of cloth masks to all households implemented during the Shinzo Abe administration had an approval rating of just 12%. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Go To campaigns fared only slightly better, with “Go To Travel” approved by 28% and “Go To Eat” by 33%.

The responses varied by age group, as younger respondents view the “Go To” schemes more favorably, with more than 40% of 18-29 year olds approving of both.