NHK on changing the Japanese constitution

Here is a post I made on What Japan Thinks about the NHK survey on the proposed amendments to the constitution:

NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, today, the 2nd of May 2013, published the results of survey on changing the Japanese constitution. For reference, here is the current constitution.

If you read the foreign press on the amendment plans, I would forgive you for thinking the new draft constitution is:

  1. Nuke China and North Korea
  2. Err
  3. That’s it

However, the reality is of course quite different, and the will of the people quite different from the will of the politicians, as this survey demonstrates.


Between the 19th and 21st of April 2013 2,685 people were called by computer-selected random digit dialling (RDD); from that 1,615 people (60%) aged 18 or older from all over the country replied to the survey. No further demographic breakdown was given. Note that this RDD methodology calls mainly fixed-line phones during weekdays, so there is going to be a bias in the sample. Also note that “No answer” was an acceptable reply to some questions, so the percentages below sometimes don’t add up to 100% as the “No answer” figure is not noted.

The need for constitutional amendment

Does the constitution need to be amended? graph of japanese statisticsThe first question was about the need for constitutional amendments. 42% thought it was necessary to do so, 16% that it was unnecessary, and 39% couldn’t say one way or the other. However, when NHK previously asked the question six years ago, the numbers were 41%, 24% and 30%, so it would appear that all the recent talk about external threats like China in the Senkaku islands and North Korea have not convinced a significant number of people of the necessity of change.

When asked why they thought the change was necessary, 75% said that times have changed and problems that cannot be dealt with have occured, up just two percentage points in six years. Next, 15% said that changes are needed so that Japan can play its role in international society, down from 18% six years ago. For those who thought the changes were unnecessary, the top reason given by 53% was that they want to protect Article Nine, the Renunciation of War Article, down nine percentage points, then 36% saying that there are some problems with the current constitution, but not enough to merit amending it, up ten percentage points.

Article Nine, the Renunciation of War Article

Does the Renunciation of War Article need to be amended? graph of japanese statisticsLooking specifically at Article Nine, just 33% thought it was necessary to amend it, 30% thought it was unnecessary, and 32% couldn’t say either way. Six years ago, the numbers for and against were 28% and 41% respectively.

When asked why they were in favour of amending it, 47% said that it should be clearly written in the constitution that Japan can have a defence force, and 32% that Japan should be able to participate in military operations of the United Nations and others. 66% of those against amending said that in the Peace Constitution, Article 9 is the most important article, and 16% said that even without amendment, we can change how the Article is interpreted.

Article 96, the Amendment Article

Does Article 96 need to be amended? graph of japanese statisticsThis article spells out how the constitution may be amended, namely that a two-thirds majority of all members (not just those present for the vote) of both Houses, and then a national referendum where a simple majority of the votes cast will be sufficient to ratify the amendment. The proposed amendment to the Amendment Article is that both houses need just a simple majority of all members of each House.

First of all, people were asked if they knew about the proposed amendment to Article 96; 17% said they knew it well, 36% knew something about it, 30% didn’t really know much, and 15% knew nothing at all. Regarding the specific amendment, reducing from a two-thirds to a simple majority, 26% said they agreed, 24% disagreed, and 47% couldn’t say.

Finally, there are a number of new rights, etc that it is being argued may require either new articles or amendments to existing ones. People were asked for their opinion on the following:

  Agree Disagree Can’t say
Right to live in a healthy environment 65% 3% 23%
Right to know government information (Freedom of Information) 62% 5% 20%
Rights of victims of crime 50% 11% 25%
Right to privacy 49% 15% 25%
Changing from a bicameral (two chambers) to a unicameral (single chamber) government 35% 29% 25%
  1. Anyone better informed than me care to tell us more about the “freedom of information” amendment concept as it would work in Japan? I assume it would help a lot of researchers, actually active activists, journalists, and people who correct journalists’ mistakes.

    I’ve only seen an anecdote or two about gaijin trying to do FOIA-style requests, but being stonewalled with a Catch-22 style : “You have to know the exact nature,title,document#,etc. of the report or info you seek to be able to request to see it.”

    Though that could have just been excuses made by gaijin not willing to admit the real problem was their functional illiteracy in Japanese? “You have to be able to state clearly in Japanese just what info exactly you want”?

  2. The Chrysanthemum Sniffer

    These poll results are pretty much contradicted by other polls. The difference seems to be that the other polls highlight the LDP’s draft constitution, and a lot of Japanese don’t seem to be terribly comfortable with it either.

  3. @The Chrysanthemum Sniffer: That’s interesting – there was no “Not sure/Can’t say” answer offered in the Asahi poll, so it’s difficult to compare the results. Furthermore, the Asahi poll was mail-based, so there would have been more supporting material for people to read and come to a more considered opinion, which does suggest that even if both houses pass the Article 96 amendment, it will get rejected by the voters?

    (There’s also the fact that the Asahi is the most left-wing of the big dailies, and I’ve heard from others that their polling panel do tend to be biased.)

  4. The Chrysanthemum Sniffer

    Well, the methods may well account for a “liberal” skew. The Yomiuri does telephone polls (I think) as does the NHK. You could also say that people are more likely to respond to a mail poll if they have an “agenda” — that is, if you think the constitution is under attack, you will bother responding. If you think that Abe should carry on, you may not.

    But I think more of influence are the questions about the LDP draft. It’s clear that a lot of people, while they may approve of Abenomics, are not really a fan of the whole “let’s get tough and be proud of our nation” thing. So by effectively labelling “constitutional revision” as “that thing that Abe wants to do” the results fall against revising article 9.

  5. yankdownunder

    the questions start 17:45 in video

    QUESTION: My only question is about Japan’s constitution situation. As we know, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made no secret that he’s going to revise the Article 96 of Japan’s constitution. As we know, the constitution – Japan’s constitution was drafted by the United States after World War II. So in your opinion, does that suggest Japan is not satisfied with the rules set during that time? And does the U.S. support this action?

    MR. VENTRELL: Well, I really refer you to the Japanese for anything about their constitution. But we have a deep and longstanding alliance with Japan, a relationship that’s based on shared values and mutual trust. And so that’s going to be true going forward, and I really refer you to the Japanese.

    QUESTION: Do you support the revising of the constitution this time?

    MR. VENTRELL: That’s a matter for the Japanese, internally, to look at.

    QUESTION: And some critics believes that actually this is Abe’s first step towards changing the Article 9, which will help the Japanese Government to formalize a military. Also recently, Japanese Prime Minister Abe has made some comments, saying that the definition of aggression is not formally determined yet. Is the United States concerned about these developments?

    MR. VENTRELL: Again, I really refer you to the Japanese for information on any of their internal issues. You’ve heard the President, you’ve heard the Secretary talk about our cornerstone alliance with the Japanese and how important it is, and so that’s true going forward.

    SK is not happy with State Dept. position on Japan’s constitution.

    U.S. acquiesces in Japan’s move to revise peace constitution

  6. @yankdownunder: Why should the US make public comment on proposed revisions to the Japanese constitution?

    And South Korea being unhappy is hardly news. :roll:

  7. iLikedolphins

    Gaijins are so cute when they take all this Japan stuff seriously!

  8. Beneaththewheel

    I’m pretty sure the US has pressured Japan to drop article 9 since the 50s, and the SDF were a compromise.

    Am I wrong?


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