Japan PM Abe and Abenomics enjoy strong voter support, show polls

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese voters maintain strong support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as his "Abenomics" economic policy helps weaken the yen and boost share prices, but have little interest in his plan to revise the pacifist constitution, newspaper polls showed on Monday.

Mr Abe, who returned to the premiership after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) election win in December, has promised to beat deflation with a combination of hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending.

Voter support for Mr Abe's government came in at 76 per cent in a poll by the Nikkei business daily, up from 69 per cent in the previous survey in March, boding well for the LDP's performance in an upper house election expected in July.

The approval rating was the highest since 2001, when charismatic leader Junichiro Koizumi was in office, the paper said.

A Kyodo news agency poll, unveiled on Sunday, had Mr Abe's support rating at 72.1 per cent, up 1 percentage point from the previous survey, while the Mainichi daily poll showed Mr Abe's support rating had slid 4 percentage points from the prior survey to 66 per cent.

Support of 66 per cent is still relatively high. In the final days of former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda's government, support ratings for the Democratic Party cabinet were in the low 20s.

The Mainichi survey also showed limited interest in revising the constitution.

The issue trailed such topics as economic recovery, social security and nuclear power generation in a list of preferences.

Mr Abe aims to revise the post-World War Two pacifist constitution to ease limits on the military. But he is proposing first to change the rules on such a revision so that support of a simple majority of lawmakers, rather than two-thirds, could get the process started.

The constitution has never been formally altered since it was drafted by US Occupation forces in 1947, but the government has for decades been stretching the limits of the constitution's pacifist Article Nine, which if strictly interpreted bans even the maintenance of a military.

Mr Abe made a ritual offering of a pine tree to a shrine seen as a symbol of Japan's former militarism on Sunday, a gesture likely to upset Asian victims of Japan's war-time aggression, including China, but which plays well among conservatives at home.

South Korea's foreign minister cancelled a trip to Japan after Mr Abe made the offering.