Japanese Public's Support for Holding Summer Olympics Deteriorates Amid State of Emergency

17% of Japanese adults are in favor of moving forward with the Olympics, down from 25% in March
Demonstrators protest against the Tokyo Olympics on March 25 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 17 percent of Japanese respondents said they support holding the games as scheduled, according to a Morning Consult survey conducted May 27-June 1. (Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)
June 02, 2021 at 4:09 pm UTC

Key Takeaways

  • 71% of respondents preferred either postponing or canceling the event to holding it as planned, up from 61% in March.

  • While a majority of Japanese sports fans opposed holding the Olympics as scheduled, they were nearly three times as likely as non-sports fans to express support for moving forward with the event.

With the Summer Olympics scheduled to begin next month and much of Japan -- including host city Tokyo -- in a government-declared state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, opposition from the Japanese public to moving forward with the games continues to mount, according to a new survey. 

In a Morning Consult poll conducted May 27-June 1, just 17 percent of Japanese adults said the Tokyo Games should be held as scheduled, down from 25 percent in a March poll. Meanwhile, 71 percent of respondents favored either postponing the games (26 percent) or canceling them altogether (45 percent), up from 61 percent in March.

Twelve percent of Japanese adults had no opinion on the fate of the Olympics, which are set to take place July 23-Aug. 8.

The margin of error among the 1,000 Japanese adults surveyed was 3 percentage points for both surveys.

The decline in support for the Tokyo Games, which were first scheduled for July 2020 and postponed in March of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, over the past several months coincides with worsening coronavirus conditions in Japan. Last week, the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures, which dates back to April 25, was extended through June 20.

Self-identified sports fans, who made up 57 percent of the sample, were almost three times as likely as non-sports fans to support holding the games, with 24 percent of fans in favor compared to 9 percent of non-fans. Even among sports fans, however, 68 percent of respondents supported either postponing or canceling the games.

Event organizers and Japanese leaders have sought to reassure the public that they can host the Olympics as planned without jeopardizing public safety, and Group of 7 leaders reportedly plan to issue a statement following their June 11-13 summit in support of Japan’s efforts to move forward with the games.

Japanese health authorities, however, have expressed concern about the games’ potential to overwhelm the country’s health care system, given the public’s low vaccination rate, which Reuters recently reported at 2.7 percent. Reuters also reported that government medical adviser Shigeru Omi warned a parliamentary committee that it is “not normal to hold the Olympic Games in a situation like this” and urged organizers to downsize the event as much as possible if they plan to move forward.

Meanwhile, support for moving forward with the Olympics has increased among U.S. adults, who have seen pandemic conditions improve domestically and are less aware of the conditions in Japan. In a May 21-24 poll, 46 percent of Americans said the Tokyo Games should take place as scheduled, up from 41 percent in March. Meanwhile, 28 percent said they should either be postponed or canceled, down from 34 percent in the prior poll.

A headshot photograph of Alex Silverman
Alex Silverman
Senior Reporter

Alex Silverman previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering the business of sports.

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