NIRA

JPN

OPINION PAPER

What Constitutes a Policy Vision
That the Public Can Accept?

In order to delineate a social and economic vision that will be acceptable to the public, the author selected four themes and attempted to observe “public opinion” after subjects undertook a process of careful consideration and deliberation. Based on this study, it is possible to indicate the following three points. First, the public is quite well aware of issues such as Japan’s declining birthrate and aging and declining population, and the nation’s problem of public debt. However, the second point is that these issues are not so simple as to allow members of the public to attain an easy understanding based on discussion alone. In the surveys discussed in this paper, careful consideration and deliberation resulted in a reduction in the number of neutral voters who did not clarify the positions with which they agreed and disagreed. This does not mean that the distribution of opinion always leans in either direction, and this may lead to polarization. The third point that came up is that discussions at the level of abstract principles do not readily engage people’s sympathies. The difficulty of discussing abstract themes that did not touch on the interlocutors’ personal lives was perceptible.

What lessons have been learned from these results in relation to the formulation of policy visions? First, there are no grounds for the idea that politics must avoid making the demand on people that they accept reduced benefits and increased burden. At the least, many people understand where the problems are situated, and even if it at first glance the process seems circuitous, tackling issues head-on is the shortest path to alleviating people’s anxieties with regard to the medium- to long-term future. However, when requesting acceptance of a reduction in benefits or an increase in burden, it would be effective to introduce an affordable burden (affordable by each individual with consideration of their ability to bear the burden) in parallel with efforts to eliminate waste. Finally, abstract discussions should be avoided as much as possible and people should be shown individual and concrete images of problems and solutions.

President, NIRA / Professor, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo