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Sunday, July 4, 2004

SURVEYING THE SURVEY

Questionnaire findings spotlight younger people's political gloom


By YOKO HANI and SETSUKO KAMIYA
Staff writers

This story is part of a package on politics and people. To read the introduction, please click here.

Are you satisfied with current state of politics? Do you support a particular political party? How do you see the future of Japan? They say that the younger generation isn't interested in politics, do you agree? These were some of the questions that The Japan Times recently asked Japanese nationals in their 20s and 30s for its TIMEOUT survey (conducted June 1-18).

TIMEOUT wanted to hear the voices of ordinary Japanese citizens of these generations in the lead-up to the Upper House election, July 11. By the survey's closing date, 145 people -- 61 men and 84 women -- had responded from across 13 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Osaka and Mie. Of the total number of respondents, 53 percent were in their 20s and 47 percent were in their 30s. They included students, company employees, part-timers, public servants and housewives.

In response to the question about the current political climate, many survey respondents were quite definite.

"Politicians are making decisions not for the Japanese people but for their own benefit," said a 27-year-old company employee from Tokyo.

His opinion was shared by more than half of the 87 percent who declared themselves "discontented" with the state of politics in Japan.

"It doesn't seem like politicians are coming up with policies with a long-term vision for this country," a 37-year-old housewife from Mie Prefecture said. "I want them to really consider who are the ones that are going to bear the burden [of their decisions.]"

For a large majority, though, taking politics to the streets in the form of public demonstrations appears not to be how they wish to express their political concerns and opinions, unlike during the student movements of the 1960s, or in many other countries today.

"I don't see how demonstrations have an effect," said a 23-year-old female company employee from Osaka.

That woman was among the 92 percent of respondents who have never taken part in a demonstration. Many of these said that they are simply not interested in taking such action, or they don't have the opportunity to do so.

What about actually exercising your right to vote?

Some 77 percent of respondents said they had cast a vote in Diet elections at least once since they became eligible to vote at age 20. However, only 62 percent could name the Diet members from their constituencies, and overall, 76 percent said they support no particular political party.

A declared "dissatisfaction" with current politics led 61 percent to state their belief that Japan's future is "dark" rather than "bright." However, nearly 80 percent agreed that their generation "lacked interest" in politics.

So -- the acid test -- will they vote in the Upper House election next Sunday?

As far as the survey respondents are concerned, exactly 60 percent said "yes," 38 percent were "undecided" and 2 percent said "no." Here are some comments from the respondents to the TIMEOUT survey:

Do you think your generation is not interested in politics?

Some of the reasons given by the 79 percent who said "yes" were:

* "The language used by politicians is difficult to understand, and that makes it hard for me to relate to politics." (A 33 year-old female company employee from Tokyo)

* "I hardly see anyone around me discussing political issues." (A 20-year-old male college student from Tokyo, whose response to the survey question was typical of many)

* "We don't have any troubles in our lives now." (A 25-year-old female university student from Mie Prefecture)

* "I don't think adults are setting a good example to younger people." (A 38 year-old female company employee from Mie)

* "I've worked at the election booths, but young people really don't come to vote. I understand that there are other things that are more interesting, and that it is hard to expect anything from politics, but I really want them to understand that politics will never change unless they cast their votes." (A 30-year-old male public servant in Hyogo Prefecture)

* "Young people can't develop an interest in politics because they are not given the opportunity to discuss, from a broad perspective, where Japan stands in the international community." (A 27-year-old female administration official at a university in Hokkaido)

* "I think people feel that talking about politics is uncool." (A 27-year-old female company employee from Tokyo)

* "Scandals involving politicians and bureaucrats make people lose interest in politics. This includes he older generation, too." (A 35-year-old male official at a private university from Aichi Prefecture)

* "I can't get rid of the impression that politics is run by a limited number of people. It just feels like someone else's business." (A 20-year-old female university student from Tokyo)

Some of those who answered "no" to the survey question commented:?

* "I think that people have an interest in politics to a certain degree. It's just that they are so used to not expecting anything." (A 32-year-old self-employed woman from Kanagawa Prefecture)

* "After Koizumi became prime minister, I think more TV shows began to cover politics in a way that's easier to understand." (A 38-year-old self-employed woman from Yamanashi Prefecture)

How do you see the future of Japan?

Some of those who said the future was "bright" gave the following reasons why:

* "I believe that Japanese people still value peace and prosperity, and we haven't given up making an effort." (A 26-year-old male public servant from Hyogo Prefecture)

* "I don't feel that you can't expect any good in the future, because our individual rights are respected. However, I doubt that I will ever be satisfied with Japan." (A 28-year-old housewife from Hokkaido)

* "There are still people with high aspirations, and I want to count on them." (A 23-year-old male university student from Hyogo)

* "It's up to me." (A 28-year-old female company employee from Tokyo)

* "I'm making a lot of effort every day so I don't want to think that the future will be dark." (A 39-year-old male company executive from Mie)

* "You have to hold on to hope, otherwise it really will be dark." (A 30-year-old female student from Osaka)

* "We can still count on the private sector, because they have technology, ambition and diligence." (A 39-year-old female company employee from Tokyo)

Some of those who foresaw a "dark" future gave the following reasons why:

* "There is no sign of the economy recovering." (A 27-year-old unemployed woman from Mie)

* "I have a hunch that it's going in that direction when I watch the news on TV." (A 20-year-old male student from Kanagawa)

* "I'm worried about our pensions." (a 26-year-old female office worker from Hyogo)

* "I think the voting turnout is too low." (A 28-year-old female company employee from Tokyo)

* "The country's in debt, the pension system and the foster care system aren't functioning, crimes seem to be on the rise and serious ones are increasing. Because of these factors, I am worried that more people will start thinking only about themselves." (A 38-year-old female part-time worker from Yamanashi Prefecture)

* "Most young people only think about themselves." (A 28-year-old male teacher from Osaka)

* "There is a lot of dark news these days." (A 29-year-old female company employee from Hokkaido)

* "I don't see any politicians who I can believe really represent the Japanese people. I think Japan needs changes in many aspects, but I can't really see that happening -- or if it is happening, the speed is so slow." (A 36-year-old female part-time worker from Tokyo)

For other stories in our package, please click the following links: Interns buck the trend Media insider casts an outsider's eye on Japan



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