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Changed Public Opinion, Changed Advocacy, and Unchanged Policy: How the Incongruence Occurred after the Fukushima Accident in Japan

Civil Society
Political Participation
Social Movements
Political Sociology
Electoral Behaviour
Public Opinion
Voting Behaviour
Energy Policy
Keiichi Satoh
Universität Konstanz
Kikuko Nagayoshi
Tohoku University
Keiichi Satoh
Universität Konstanz

Abstract

This paper analyzes links among public opinion, political elites, and citizen advocacy groups in Japan relative to the issue of nuclear energy following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Our discussion examines the following original data collected in three different but interrelated projects: (1) a nationwide survey conducted in 2013 of 326 citizen groups engaging in issues related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear energy, (2) a nationwide survey to be conducted in early 2018 of citizen groups engaging in nuclear, anti-war, and poverty issues, and (3) a survey conducted in late 2017 of 80,000 residents of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area. Each survey includes items on advocacy activity, participation in demonstrations, networking with other organizations and policy elites, and activities related to elections. Before the Fukushima disaster, Japanese civil society was characterized by the phrase “members without advocates” (Pekkanen 2006), namely, a low degree of advocacy activities (including demonstrations) with a moderate degree of social capital. However, the Fukushima disaster drastically changed the calculus for advocacy groups. Suddenly, demonstrations and advocacy were being conducted very actively, not only related to issues of nuclear energy but also other issues, such as anti-war and anti-poverty advocacy. Currently, two-thirds of Japanese opposed nuclear energy. It is noteworthy, however, that the ruling party, LDP, constantly wins elections, because the opposition parties splits up and because of its relative success in economy policy. Facing the widening gap between public preferences for nuclear energy policy and electoral results in current Japan, this paper handles the threefold channel of political participation: election, advocacy by advocacy groups, and individual advocacy (partly) facilitated by advocacy groups, as well as how the incongruence consequently occurs among the channels. We also show biases caused by the different degrees of success among the advocacy groups.