Each “Survey of Public Opinion in Japan” taken since 2014 has asked pollees to indicate on a five-point scale how close they feel toward the United States, China, South Korea, and Russia and how they think Japan’s relationship with each of these countries will have changed ten years from now compared to the current relationship.
Based on a scale where 1 is “do not feel close” and 5 is “feel close,” the average “affinity” scores this year were as follows: U.S., 3.4 (previous poll: 3.6); China, 1.9 (1.7); South Korea, 2.1 (2.2); Russia, 1.8 (1.8).
Using a scale where 1 is “Japan’s relationship will have greatly worsened” and 5 is “the relationship will have greatly improved,” the average scores were as follows: U.S., 3.3 (3.3); China, 2.3 (2.1); South Korea, 2.4 (2.4); Russia, 2.4 (2.5).
The affinity score for the United States decreased by 0.2 from the previous poll and is the lowest rating the nation has been given in the past four polls. Some 11% of respondents gave the perfect score of 5, down 9 percentage points from the previous poll and dropping below 20% for the first time.
It is possible that the many changes President Donald Trump has made to past foreign policies have given rise to a change in Japanese views of their ally. Since taking office in January this year, the President has tightened regulations on immigration and announced the withdrawal of his country from the Paris climate agreement, a new framework for tackling global warming. There was no year-on-year change in pollees’ views on the relationship ten years hence, however.
Pollees’ sense of affinity with China rose 0.2 since the previous poll, reaching the highest score of the four polls conducted to date. Moreover, 42% of pollees gave a score of 1, a drop of 7 percentage points. Although China was given the lowest affinity score of the four countries in the previous survey, this year the nation outstripped Russia to reach third place. The score given to China as a rating of bilateral ties in ten years’ time also increased by 0.2.
There is a chance these results were impacted by ongoing moves to improve the Japan-China relationship, including the summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The average affinity score given to South Korea has been on a slight rise, increasing from 2.0 in 2014 to 2.1 in 2015 and then 2.2 in 2016. In the 2017 poll, however, the score turned down by 0.1. This seems to reflect the current situation where relations continue to be strained due to historical issues and other matters.
The affinity score for Russia was unchanged from the previous poll. Because the score for China rose, however, Russia had the lowest rating.