The Yale Project on Japan’s Politics and Diplomacy Series presents:
Kenneth Mori McElwain, Associate Professor, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo: “What Do Japanese People Want From Their Constitution? An Experimental Approach.”
Debates over constitutional revision have picked up steam since 2012, when the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power. PM Shinzo Abe has declared constitutional amendment–particularly of Article 9–to be one of his top priorities, but it is not clear whether the public shares his commitment. Newspaper surveys tend to produce inconsistent results, suggesting the need for a more rigorous analysis of public opinion.
Dr. McElwain will discuss the results of two online survey experiments conducted in 2017 and 2018. In one survey, we test the effects of changing the “proposer” of constitutional amendment. In the other, we conduct a conjoint analysis to decipher what people perceive to be “ideal” constitutions. We find that amendment proposals are significantly less popular when described as coming from the LDP, but that many people–particularly those who are undecided about the merits of constitutional revision–would be more willing to accept the expansion of rights rather than changes to political institutions or to Article 9.
Kenneth Mori McElwain is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo. His research focuses on comparative political institutions, most recently on differences in constitutional content across countries. He received his BA from Princeton University and PhD in political science from Stanford University, and previously taught at the University of Michigan, before moving to his current post in 2015.