Changes in the Public Attitudes towards the Constitution

From the 2017 Survey “The Japanese and the Constitution”

Published: October 1, 2017

This article explores the shift in public opinions on the Constitution of Japan, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary since its enforcement, based on a series of surveys conducted in 1974, 1992, 2002, and 2017. Those who found constitutional amendment “necessary” was 35% in 1992, but the figure increased to 58% in 2002, significantly outnumbering those who found it “unnecessary.” Mainly triggered by the Gulf War, the 1990s and the 2000s saw growing debates on the Self Defense Forces’ activities and Japan’s international contributions as well as vigorous discussions on various issues regarding the Constitution, which led to the expansion of supporters of the amendment in a wide range of demographics. In 2017, however, “necessary” decreased to 43%, and the gap between “necessary” and “unnecessary” (34%) was narrowed. In the 2010s, there was a debate on the possible alleviation of conditions for the amendments to the Constitution, which are stipulated in the Article 96, and security-related legislation came into effect after the Abe administration approved Japan’s exercising the right to collective self-defense at a Cabinet meeting. These moves presumably made the public take more cautious approach. As to the Article 9, those who found the amendment “unnecessary” accounted for 57%, significantly excessing “necessary” (25%). Those thinking “the Article 9 is contributing to the peace and safety of Japan” also considerably increased to 82%. With more people positively evaluating the Constitution’s contribution to society, only 6% chose “constitutional amendment” as a priory in national policy and no less than 67% felt debates on the constitutional amendment were yet to deepen. These results suggest the Japanese public are not yet ready for or interested in the constitutional amendment.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research

Miki Masaki / Hiroshi Aramaki

in Japanese