Milieus, Demonstration and Party Support: Why Is Anti-Nuclear Public Opinion Represented Poorly in Japanese Policy-Making?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Keiichi SATOH, University of Konstanz, Germany
Kikuko NAGAYOSHI, Tohoku University, Japan
Following the Fukushima nuclear accident, Japanese citizens have called for nuclear energy to be phased out in the country. In fact, over 60 percent of the population has expressed support for the immediate abolishment of nuclear power plants or, at least, for shutting down a significant number of power plants. As a result, the country has witnessed an upsurge in anti-nuclear social movements. The results of the recently concluded elections, however, do not reflect the growing anti-nuclear stance. In fact, the ruling government regards nuclear energy as a core source of energy. In this research, we seek to address this contradiction—a majority public opinion against the use of nuclear energy, on the one hand, and the ruling government’s continued backing of nuclear energy on the other.

To this end, we analyzed the data gathered from a 2017 survey of twenty-thousand residents of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Our analysis is divided into three steps. First, we classify respondents “milieus” based on their attitude toward nuclear power plants, social status and lifestyle. Second, we examine the relationship between the milieu and their support to the political party. Third, we also examine the relationship between the milieu and their stance toward the anti-nuclear movement. We found that middle-class residents with a liberal ideology tend to support anti-nuclear demonstrations but do not actively identify with a political party. In contrast, the so-called conservatives do not participate in or support the demonstration. They also support the ruling parties regardless of the latter’s stance toward nuclear energy. They are also discouraged from expressing their political views publicly by the organizations they are affiliated to.

There is a structural conflict between the rapidly changed public opinions crossing over the traditional ideological cleavage (liberal and conservative) and the conventional constellations of the political parties.