Friday, May 3, 2013

NHK on changing the Japanese 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%


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