Academic journal article Development and Society

Mass Media Coverage on Climate Change Issues and Public Opinion in Japan

Academic journal article Development and Society

Mass Media Coverage on Climate Change Issues and Public Opinion in Japan

Article excerpt


When the Kyoto Protocol went into effect in February 2005, news coverage of climate change peaked, but soon declined. Japan's news coverage of climate change remained low until the release of Al Gore's movie "The Inconvenient Truth" in January 2007, followed by the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Reports from late January to early May 2007. In 2008, the Japanese government announced its long-term greenhouse gases reduction target (50%) in 2050; the G8 summit was held in Toyako, Hokkaido, in June; and Prime Minister Hatoyama announced Japan's mid-term greenhouse gas target (25%) in October. From January 2007 until September 2008, there was extensive news coverage on climate change, and people talked about " global warming" in their everyday lives.

However, the issue of climate change was superseded by the Global Financial Crisis that began in the summer of 2008, and the economy was one of the top issues in the society until the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in Tohoku in March 2011. Public perceptions changed in parallel with those events. These relationships between public perceptions and media coverage on various events in the society become clear when we track the Japanese public's perception of the importance of climate change.

Among the many issues noted, I assessed the issue of climate change based on (1) frequencies and temporal trends of response rate as domestic and international issues, (2) volume of news coverage on climate change issues in three major Japanese newspapers.


To examine the relationship between mass media coverage on climate change and public response to this coverage, we have conducted monthly surveys of a pool of nationally representative Japanese public (20 years and older) since 2005. In this survey we asked two questions: "What are the most important issues in Japan?" and "What are the most important issues in the world?" I categorized the responses into several salient issues in the society and tracked their response rates based on the issues noted by the respondents. According to the classic theories in the fields of mass media and public opinion, these responses were influenced by how the mass media framed national and international issues and how much coverage those issues received (Sampei and Aoyagi-Usui, 2009).

This study used a three stage probabilistic random sampling protocol. The number of respondents accounted for about 1000 people among the 4000 sampled based on 150 sampling points. In each sampling point, respondents are chosen based on residential maps in each point. A survey research company, Central Research Company, sent about 150 trained interviewers to the respondents' homes for face-to- face-to- interviews. Respondents were asked the two questions and responded in their own word(s). I asked our question as open questions, so that respondents' answers are a word(s). Then I classified those answers into some major categories. Due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, the survey was not conducted in March and April 2011, but resumed in May 2011.


The most important issues in Japan and the East Japan Great Earthquake

Figure 1 shows the nine years of survey results regarding the most important issues in Japan from April 2005 through December 2013.

Throughout 2005 and 2006, "politics/finance" was identified as the most salient issue. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi executed the privatization of the Japan Post, the operator of the country's postal savings system. With regard to this privatization, there was a fierce political struggle between members of Japan's ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the prime minister. Around this time, a new party, the Democratic Party of Japan, emerged and gradually gained political power. In the summer of 2007, the mass media wrote about the possible breakdown of the national pension system, and citizens were concerned about their livelihoods after retirement. …

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