Nuclear energy issues are a top priority for nearly half of voters in the upcoming Lower House election, rivaling perennial concerns about the economy and social security.
The results are from an Asahi Shimbun opinion poll that asked voters how much importance they will attach to each of seven given policy issues when casting their votes. Respondents were given four choices, ranging from "great importance" to "no importance."
According to the survey, the top concern among voters was "the economy and employment measures," to which 53 percent of respondents said they will attach great importance, followed by "social security," with 50 percent.
Forty-seven percent said they will attach great importance to "nuclear power generation," while 43 percent said the same for "the consumption tax hike."
The results for "diplomacy and national security," "administrative reform" and "Trans-Pacific Partnership (free trade initiative)" were 35 percent, 33 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
The Asahi Shimbun mailed the questionnaires to 3,000 eligible voters selected at random on July 12. Valid responses were received from 2,249 voters, or 75 percent, by Aug. 20.
The survey also asked voters' opinions on matters related to nuclear energy.
Of the nation's 50 nuclear reactors, 48 remain offline after last year's accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, while two were restarted by the government in July.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are opposed to the reactivation of those reactors currently shut down, while 36 percent support restarting them.
Regarding the government's three proposed options for the ratio of nuclear power in electricity generation in 2030--zero percent, 15 percent and 20-25 percent--49 percent of respondents said they support the nuclear-free option, 29 percent support the 15-percent option, and 12 percent back the option for 20-25 percent.
In a separate question, 80 percent of respondents said they support phasing out nuclear power, while 12 percent were opposed.
Voters were also asked to choose the political party they would vote for if the Lower House election were held today.
The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party took the lead with 31 percent, ahead of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, with 18 percent, and Your Party, with 11 percent.
Voters were also asked to choose from five alternatives in which criteria other than policy issues they consider most important in the Lower House election, which has not been scheduled, but Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has promised to hold "before long."
Topping the list was "what they can expect from a political party in the future," chosen by 35 percent of respondents.
That number was down from 47 percent who chose the same answer in an Asahi Shimbun survey taken before the 2009 Lower House election in which the DPJ took power.
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