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Japan-U.S. relationship is strong today, but people are anxious about future, Yomiuri-Gallup poll

  • December 21, 2016
  • , Yomiuri , p. 11
  • JMH Translation

The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Gallup Organization, a U.S. polling company, conducted a [telephone-based] joint public opinion survey in Japan and the United States [on Nov. 28–Dec. 4]. The poll revealed that 40% of respondents in each country are anxious about the future of the Japan-U.S. relationship, with the advent of a new administration under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. A high percentage of pollees in each nation view the bilateral relationship positively today, but it looks like the words and deeds of Trump and the policies of his administration will greatly influence whether the two countries are able to maintain a stable relationship going forward.


In the poll, the majority of respondents in both nations had a positive view of the bilateral relationship today. Some 57% of respondents in Japan said Japan-U.S. relations are currently “in good shape” [including both “very good” and “good”], which is about on a par with the all-time high set in the previous poll (November 2015). [See chart.]


In both countries today, there is a good understanding of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Some 72% of pollees in Japan and 76% in the United States said that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty “contributes” to security in the Asia-Pacific region [including “very much” and “somewhat”], continuing the high level found in the previous survey.


Over half of respondents in both Japan (56%) and the United States (63%) said that the U.S. military presence in Japan “should be maintained at the current level.” Some 60% of respondents in both Japan and the United States also said that the U.S. “should maintain its military power at the current level” in the Asia-Pacific region, where China is becoming more influential. There was no major change in this regard from the previous survey.


Trump, however, has repeatedly made inflammatory statements that could rock the Japan-U.S. alliance. During the presidential campaign, he said that he will demand that Japan cover more of the cost of stationing the U.S. military in Japan and hinted at withdrawing the U.S. military from the country. Concerns about the future were vividly evident in the survey.


In both countries, about 40% of respondents said that Japan-U.S. relations “will worsen” [including both “worsen” and “worsen greatly”] under the administration of President-elect Trump. There was a precipitous drop in the percentage in each country saying that ties will “remain unchanged,” with 40% in Japan (previous survey: 76%) and 22% in the U.S. (50%) selecting this response. [See chart.]


Until this year’s survey, the highest figures for “worsen,” since 2004 when the question started to be asked, were 16% in Japan in 2009 and 20% in the United States in 2011. A simple comparison cannot be made, however, because cellphone users were added to the survey target audience in the United States in 2013 and in Japan in 2016. The largest year-on-year drop for “remain unchanged” since 2004 was also seen this year in both countries.


Concern about the future was more strongly seen in Japan. No major change was seen among respondents in the United States in this regard. Some 68% of U.S. respondents said that they “trust” Japan [including “very much” and “somewhat”] (previous survey: 71%) while 29% said that they “do not trust” Japan [including “not very much” and “not at all”] (27%). In contrast, those in Japan saying they “trust” the United States dropped to 42% (48%) and those indicating they “do not trust” the United States rose to 43% (36%). [See chart.]


The two countries’ respondents differed in their views on how America’s international influence has changed over the eight years of the Obama administration. Some 46% of pollees in Japan said that it “remained unchanged” while 29% said that it “decreased” and 18% said it “increased.” In contrast, some 44% of U.S. pollees said that it “decreased” while 29% said it “increased” and 25% said it “remained unchanged.”


When asked what the U.S. should do in settling international disputes, 48% of respondents in Japan said it should “engage as ever” (43%), making it the most frequent response. Meanwhile, 44% of respondents in the United States said it should “engage less than ever” (36%). This reflects an “inward-looking” stance, as expressed in Trump’s slogan “America first.”


SDF most trusted organization in Japan


When asked what organizations and public entities in their country they trust (multiple answers permitted), some 72% of Japanese respondents said the “Self-Defense Forces” (previous survey: 74%). The SDF has topped the past six surveys in a row. The SDF was followed by “hospitals” at 67%, “courts” at 65%, “police, prosecutors” at 57%, and “newspapers” at 54%. In the United States, the most frequent response was “armed services” at 91% (92%).


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