Four in five people surveyed believe that additional legal restrictions should be imposed upon the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult, which has become increasingly visible in recent weeks, according to a Mainichi poll.
The nationwide survey also found that nearly two-thirds of 1,238 adults polled by telephone over the weekend think the cult should be legally obliged to compensate the victims of a series of AUM-related atrocities.
According to the poll, 41 percent of the respondents believe the government should reconsider applying the Anti-Subversive Activities Law to the cult, while 40 percent think a new law should be created to restrict the group's activities.
In total, more than 80 percent of those polled support the imposition of new legal restrictions on the cult. Only 9 percent said existing restrictions were sufficient.
In 1997, the Public Safety Examination Commission ruled that the Anti-Subversive Activities Law should not be applied to the cult on the grounds that it was unlikely to pose any future threat to public safety.
The law, which permits the banning of subversive organizations, applies to groups found to have engaged in terrorism and deemed likely to do so again. However, no group has ever been banned, partly because of criticism that the law could be used by the government to silence political dissent.
When those polled are grouped by age, it becomes apparent that older people were more likely to support a re-examination of the application of the Anti-Subversive Activities Law as it pertains to AUM Shinrikyo than are younger members of the public. Fully 47 percent of those in their 70s or older support a re-examination.
In contrast, the younger generation was more likely to support the creation of new legal measures to restrict the cult. Forty-six percent of those in their 30s and 47 percent of those in their 20s favored new measures to restrict the cult.
When broken down by political affiliation, more than half of those who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the Liberal Party, were in favor of a re-examination of the Anti-Subversive Activities Law.
Such an action, however, was supported by only about 20 percent of those who support the No. 2 opposition party, Komeito.
Instead, 60 percent of the Komeito supporters said they preferred the creation of new legal measures to rein in the cult and its followers.
As for relief measures for the victims of a series of AUM-related incidents involving death or injuries, 64 percent of those polled said a new law should be created to legally oblige the cult to provide redress.
Under the current law, AUM Shinrikyo is regarded as a different religious body than the one implicated in such incidents as the Tokyo subway gas attack in 1995. Therefore, the cult in its current incarnation is not legally obliged to compensate the victims of the cult-related incidents.
About one in five, or 21 percent of those polled, indicated that the government or other bodies should provide relief for the cult's victims.