Asahi Shimbun December 2008 Regular Opinion Poll (08-31)

Key Issues
  • Support for the Aso Cabinet
  • Law, crime, and punishment
  • Impending introduction of the citizen judge system
Dates Conducted

December 13 and 14, 2008

Date Released

January 9, 2008 (Morning Edition of the Asahi Shimbun)


The poll was conducted by face-to-face interview on December 13 and 14 with voters across Japan. 3,000 names were selected from the voting register. Subjects were selected using a two-stage random sampling method. The total number of those polled was 1830, a 61% response rate. 48% of respondents were male, while 52% were female.
The figures below represent percentages. Decimals were rounded to the nearest figure. Parts of some questions and answers have been abbreviated. The numbers in brackets represent percentages of the total sample population.


Q1. The first questions are related to today’s politics. Do you support the Aso Cabinet?

Support 22%
Do not support 64%


Q2. Which political party do you currently support?

Liberal Democratic Party 30%
Democratic Party of Japan 20%
New Komeito 3%
Japan Communist Party 2%
Social Democratic Party 1%
The People’s New Party 0%
The New Party of Japan 0%
Other party 0%
Do not support any party 36%
No Answer/Do not know 8%


Q3. The next several questions are related to law. How close (personal) is the law to you? Please select just one from the following.

Very close 11%
Somewhat close 39%
Not very close 40%
Not close at all 8%


Q4. Would you like to know more about the law or not?

Yes 58%
No 36%


Q5. Concerning your impression of the law in general, which is closest to your thinking? Please select just one.

Law is something imposed by the country 54%
Law is something created by all the people 40%


Q6. In your daily life, how often do you think “I am protected because of the law”?  Please select just one.

Think this way often 9%
Sometimes think this way 62%
Rarely think this way 24%
Never think this way 4%


Q7. Do you think laws are something that must be obeyed regardless of the circumstances?  Or do you think there are situations where it is all right not to obey them?

Must be obeyed in all circumstances 59%
Do not have to be obeyed in all circumstances 36%


Q8. Could you forgive the following 6 situations if you saw them happen?

First, if you see someone crossing at a crosswalk against the light, can you forgive this or not?

Can forgive 27%
Cannot forgive 68%


Q9. What about if you see someone parking their bicycle in the walkway in front of the [train] station?

Can forgive 23%
Cannot forgive 73%


Q10. What about if you see someone putting out their trash incorrectly?  [Japan has strict disposal laws, which mandate separating garbage and putting each type out on fixed days of the week]

Can forgive 8%
Cannot forgive 89%


Q11. What about if you see someone giving alcohol to a minor during a celebration?

Can forgive 24%
Cannot forgive 72%


Q12. What about if you see someone buying fake brand-name items or bootleg goods?

Can forgive 46%
Cannot forgive 46%


Q13. What about if you see someone picking flowers from a park flowerbed?

Can forgive 10%
Cannot forgive 87%


Q14. Do you think that society’s rules should be decided by law down to the details, or do you think laws should just decide things broadly?

Decide details by law 33%
Decide things broadly by law 59%


Q15. Compared with 5 years ago, do you think public safety in Japan has gotten better, has gotten worse, or hasn’t changed? (Numbers in parentheses are from a survey conducted in January 2004.)

Better 3 (1)%
Worse 76 (81) %
No particular change 20 (16)%


Q16. What do you think is most effective in reducing crime? Please select just one (numbers in parentheses are from a survey conducted in January 2004).

Economic or employment measures 17 (17)%
Improving morals 31 (27) %
Local residents’ cooperation 17 (18)%
Strengthening police investigative abilities 8 (12)%
Strengthening punishment 16 (16)%
Enhancing rehabilitative measures to prevent repeat offenses 7 (7)%


Q17. You will be asked in turn to what degree you trust (1) judges (2) lawyers (3) prosecutors and (4) police officers. Please select just one.

(1) (2) (3) (4)
Greatly trust 14% 8% 10% 10%
Trust somewhat 66% 62% 65% 58%
Do not really trust 14% 23% 18% 26%
Do not trust at all 2% 3% 2% 4%


Q18. Next, you will be asked in turn to what degree you think (1) judges (2) lawyers (3) prosecutors and (4) police officers are in touch with public sentiment. Please select just one.

(1) (2) (3) (4)
Very much in touch 3% 7% 4% 15%
Somewhat in touch 37% 57% 44% 56%
Not very much in touch 48% 28% 39% 23%
Not in touch at all 7% 4% 6% 4%


Q19. In order to check whether investigations by police and others are carried out in an appropriate manner, some believe that process should be recorded in its entirety.  On the other hand, others criticize this, saying it will make it harder to obtain testimony, etc.  Do you support or are you against recording investigations?

Support 67%
Against 22%


Q20. In the case of certain crimes, such as those involving the trade of stimulant drugs or guns, investigative authorities (e.g. the police) can get permission from a judge to wiretap a phone or read someone’s email without their consent.  Do you think that this sort of investigation should be conducted more widely, that it is fine as is, or that limits should be placed on it?

Make it more widely used 30%
Fine as is 41%
Should be limited 22%


Q21. There are some countries that have a system where, in exchange for providing information that leads to the arrest of the mastermind of a crime, the criminal is let off. Do you feel resistance to the introduction of such a “plea-bargaining system” in Japan or not?

Feel resistance 57%
Do not feel resistance 31%


Q22. Next follow several questions on the criminal trials for suspected criminals.
How much faith do you have in today’s criminal trials?

Great faith 6%
Some faith 68%
Not much faith 21%
No faith at all 1%


Q23. Do you think that criminal trials should unravel a case in its entirety, including the detailed particulars, even if this takes time?  Or do you think that in order to proceed quickly, only the key parts of a case need to be treated?

The case should be unraveled in its entirety 62%
Only the key parts of a case need to be treated 29%


Q24. In the court decisions of recent criminal trials, have you ever had doubts about the severity of punishment, etc.?

Often 33%
Sometimes 51%
Not often 10%
Not at all 3%


Q25. Overall, do you feel that punishment in Japan is severe, appropriate, or light?

Severe 1%
Appropriate 30%
Light 59%


Q26. If punishment in Japan were to be made more severe, do you think crime would decrease or not?

Would decrease 44%
Would not decrease 50%


Q27. There are two aspects to punishing crime: “punishment,” where the criminal atones for the crime, and “rehabilitation,” which reforms the criminal.  When punishing a criminal, which aspect do you think should be emphasized, “punishment” or “rehabilitation”?

Punishment 37%
Rehabilitation 50%


Q28. Next you will be asked several questions about the citizen judge system.

From May of next year [2009], a “citizen judge system” will begin. Eligible voters 20 years of age and older are chosen by lottery to participate in criminal trials of murders and other major crimes, where they will decide the verdict together with the judge.  How much interest do you have in the citizen judge system?  Please select just one.

Greatly interested 21%
Somewhat interested 41%
Not very interested 29%
Not interested at all 7%


Q29. Do you support the citizen judge system or are you against it?

Support 34%
Against 52%


Q30. Once the citizen judge system beings, do you want to participate in a criminal trial as a lay judge? Please select just one.

Definitely want to participate 5%
Want to participate if possible 17%
Do not want to participate if possible 50%
Definitely do not want to participate 26%


SQ1.  [For the 22% who answered “Definitely want to participate” and “Want to participate if possible”] Why? Please select just one.

Want to reflect the opinions of the average person in court 48 [11]%
Interested in criminal trials 22 [5] %
Want to contribute to society 16 [3]%
It is a citizen’s duty 12 [3] %


SQ2.  [For the 76% who answered “Do not want to participate if possible” and “Definitely do not want to participate”] Why? Please select just one.

Resistant to sit in judgment on someone 25 [19]%
Do not want to be involved in crime or criminal cases 6 [4]%
Do not have confidence in making correct judgment 50 [38]%
It will get in the way of work/life 15 [11]%


Q31. In the process of selecting citizen judges, to prevent bias in the people selected, you cannot refuse to serve, barring reasons such as old age or participation posing significant detriment to work.  Do you think that refusing should be accepted broadly, in consideration of the circumstances of the people who are to serve?  Or do you that the acceptances of such refusals should be kept to a minimum?

Should be broadly accepted 74%
Should be kept to a minimum 19%


Q32. In the citizen judge system, for each case, 50 to 100 people are called to the court as lay judge candidates.  In the end, 6 lay judges are selected by lottery.  If you were called to court as a potential lay judge, would you go to court or not?

Would go 57%
Would not go 36%


Q33. If you had to take off time from work or leave your house to participate as a lay judge in a trial, do you think the people around you at work or in your family would understand?

Yes 65%
No 26%


Q34. Once the citizen judge system starts, do you think will your faith in criminal trials will increase, decrease, or will not change?

Increase 29%
Decrease 10%
Will not change 52%


Q35. Once the citizen judge system begins, do you think heavy punishments will increase, decrease, or will not change?

Increase 27%
Decrease 13%
Will not change 49%


Q36. Under the citizen judge system, there is a possibility that the severity of punishments will differ, even for the same type of crime, compared to those under judge-only trials.  Do you think it is acceptable for there to be a change in the severity of punishment as a result of including the lay judges?

Acceptable 43%
Not acceptable 47%


Q37. Do you think the lay judge system will take root or not?

Will take root 26%
Will not take root 59%


Q38. Next you will be asked several questions about the capital punishment system.
The most severe punishment in Japan is the death penalty. Do you think the death penalty should be continued or abolished?

Should be continued 81%
Should be abolished 12%


SQ1. [For the 81% who answered “Should be continued”] Why? Please select just one.

Believe that it prevents heinous crimes 25 [20]%
Because the feelings of the victim or family should be considered 29 [24]%
There is a great possibility of repeat offense with heinous crimes 18 [14]%
Heinous crimes should be atoned for with life 26 [21]%


SQ2. [For the 12% who answered “Should be abolished”] Why? Please select just one.

Even if it is a heinous crime, human life should be respected 33 [4]%
If the judgment was mistaken, it cannot be taken back 23 [3]
It closes the door to the criminal’s atonement and rehabilitation 30 [4]%
It has been abolished in many other advanced nations 6 [1]


Q39. In Japan the most severe punishment after the death penalty is life imprisonment. Depending on the criminal’s degree of repentance, etc., there are some cases where the criminal is released on parole after about 30 years. On the other hand, there are some who say that life imprisonment where there is no release should be introduced.  Do you support or are you against the introduction of such life imprisonment?

Support 74%
Against 17%


Q40. If, hypothetically speaking, a life imprisonment system where no release was recognized was created, do you think that capital punishment should still be continued or that it should be abolished?

Should be continued 62%
Should be abolished 30%


The Mansfield Foundation is responsible for the translation of this Asahi Shimbun poll, subject to the Mansfield Foundation terms of use (see below).

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