Voters opposed to the state secrets protection bill now outnumber proponents 2-to-1, while the Abe Cabinet’s support rate has dipped below 50 percent for the first time, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.
Fifty percent of the respondents are against the bill, which the ruling coalition rammed through the Lower House last month, while 25 percent back the legislation, according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
The bill is now in the Upper House, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet appears determined to enact the law before the current Diet session ends on Dec. 6.
The proposed law has come under fire from all sides over its vague wording of what constitutes a state secret, the harsh penalties for offenders and the lack of oversight from an outside party. Concerns have been raised about potential abuse of the proposed law to conceal embarrassing information that the public has a right to know.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said further discussions on the bill are needed in subsequent Diet sessions, while 22 percent said the legislation should be withdrawn. Only 14 percent believe it should be enacted during the current Diet session, according to the survey.
The largest percentage of supporters for each of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, coalition partner New Komeito and the opposition Japan Restoration Party said “the discussion should be continued.”
Only 22 percent of the respondents who support the Abe Cabinet feel the bill should be passed, compared with 56 percent who want further debate, the survey showed.
Sixty-one percent of all respondents said they object to the way the ruling coalition, which controls both chambers of the Diet, steamrolled the bill through the Lower House on Nov. 26.
The growing protests over the bill appear to have further chipped away at the once high popularity levels of Prime Minister Abe.
The support rate for the Abe Cabinet was 49 percent, down from 53 percent in a Nov. 9-10 survey, and under 50 percent for the first time since he took office in December 2012. The Cabinet’s nonsupport rate rose to 30 percent from 25 percent.
The survey provided the government’s argument that the bill is needed to prevent leaks of information by toughening penalties on public servants, journalists and others who disclose secrets or acquire such data illegally. It also explained that the bill could infringe on the people’s right to know.
The same information was provided in the Nov. 9-10 survey, which showed 42 percent opposed to the bill and 30 percent in support.
The gap has increased, as has the level of concern about possible abuse of the proposed law.
The respondents were asked to choose from among four levels of concern about the wide scope of information that can be kept secret under the proposed law. Twenty-six percent said they are “greatly” concerned, up from 19 percent in the previous survey.
Fifty-two percent answered they are concerned “to some extent.”
The respondents were also asked to choose from among four levels of concern about the bill infringing upon the people’s right to know. Thirty-two percent said they are “greatly” concerned, while 50 percent said they concerned “to some extent.”
The underlying cause of these fears is that the majority of voters simply do not trust the government to properly designate secrets under the proposed law.
According to the survey, 63 percent said they “cannot trust” the government, 67 percent of whom were opposed to the bill.
In comparison, only 22 percent said they “can trust” the government, of whom 65 percent supported the bill.
Seventy-eight percent of all respondents said it is “necessary” to establish a third party independent from the government to verify whether officials’ designation of state secrets is appropriate.
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