The Japanese cabinet's public approval rating dropped to 40.2 percent, a new low since its launch last year, the latest Kyodo News survey showed Sunday, as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party struggles to defuse jitters over its controversial links to a religious group and a planned state funeral later in the month for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The rating for the cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a sharp drop from over 63 percent shortly after the ruling party's sweeping victory in the upper house election in July and 54.1 percent in the last survey in August.
Its latest disapproval rating in the weekend survey, a record 46.5 percent, exceeded the approval rating for the first time since Kishida took office in October.
A majority of respondents to the latest poll, 60.8 percent, oppose Abe's state funeral set for Sept. 27, while 38.5 percent indicated support.
The funeral, only the second afforded to a Japanese prime minister after postwar leader Shigeru Yoshida in 1967, has been a significant factor in Kishida's sliding poll ratings since mid-July.
While Kishida told a Sept. 8 press conference the funeral is "appropriate" given Abe's achievements as Japan's longest-serving prime minister, 67.2 percent of respondents to the latest poll said his reasoning for granting the honor did not persuade them.
Abe was fatally shot during a July 8 campaign stump speech. The government estimates the costs for preparing the venues, security and welcoming foreign guests at more than 1.6 billion yen ($11 million).
Asked whether the cost is appropriate, 72.5 percent of the respondents said the government is spending too much for the funeral.
Public distrust of the LDP has also been fueled by reports of links to the Unification Church that have come to the fore since the shooting of Abe, whose assailant reportedly held a grudge against him for alleged ties to the group.
In an attempt to manage the fallout, the LDP launched a survey of its lawmakers' links to the religious group, which revealed on Sept. 8 that 179 of its lawmakers -- around half -- had some dealings with the church.
Kishida said on Aug. 31 that his party would require its lawmakers to cut ties with the church, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
However, some 80.1 percent of respondents also said the party's response to links with the church was insufficient, and 77.6 percent said they do not think the LDP will be able to sever its connections to it.
The church has drawn attention over problematic practices such as so-called spiritual sales, in which people are talked into buying jars and other items for exorbitant prices. Abe's assailant had told investigators his mother's large donations had financially ruined their family.
On other issues, 70.5 percent of those surveyed expressed disapproval of the government's response to rising prices, compared to 24.2 percent who approved.
Consumer prices have risen above the Bank of Japan's 2 percent target since April, and data from the central bank on Tuesday showed wholesale prices up 9.0 percent in August compared to a year earlier.
The survey called 506 randomly selected households with eligible voters on landline phones and 1,977 mobile phone numbers. It yielded responses from 426 people from households and 623 mobile phone users.© KYODO