Major Findings of a U.S. Poll on Opinions Toward Japan

May 1999
Overseas Public Relations Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The following is a summary of the 1999 survey in the United States of opinions toward Japan.

Overall View

The opinion poll results indicate a generally positive view of Japan and Japan-U.S. relations among American citizens.

Specific Findings

1. Highly favorable feelings toward Japan

Both the general public and opinion leaders in the United States hold a favorable view of Japan and regard it as a dependable ally. Among the general public in particular, the highest figures ever were registered in the responses to both the dependable-ally and favorable-feeling questions. The rates, 61% and 43% respectively, were slightly above the findings of last year's survey. (However, close to half the respondents expressed no opinion about Japan as a country on the favorable-feeling question.)

(See references 2-a and 3-a for both the general public and opinion leaders)

2. Views of the Bilateral Relationship

Interviewed about Japan-U.S. relations in general, more than 40% of the general-public respondents and more than 60% of the opinion leaders described the relationship as "excellent" or "good." Half the general-public respondents and 42% of the opinion-leader respondents were optimistic about the future of the bilateral relationship, shares that far exceeded pessimistic replies. On the question about how well Japan and the United States understand each other, however, opinion leaders who felt mutual understanding is good were outnumbered by those who felt it is poor.

(See references 6-a, 7, and 8 for the general public and references 7-a, 9, and 10 for opinion leaders.)

3. Increased appreciation of the Japan-U.S. security set-up

The vast majority of both samples (84% of the general-public and 89% of the opinion-leader respondents) endorsed the maintenance of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. There was a 2-point increase from last year's poll in both samples among those who feel the security treaty contributes a great deal to peace and stability in Japan and the Far East. In the case of the opinion-leader respondents, the response rate was 52%. Another question enquired into how important the security treaty is for the security of the United States; 53% of the general-public respondents and 52% of the opinion-leader respondents deemed it very important.

(See references 11, 12, and 13 for the general public and references 14, 15, and 16 for opinion leaders.)

4. Perceptions of economic and trade issues

Many respondents in both samples see economic and trade issues as extremely important to the bilateral relations, and many also feel that the primary responsibility for improving economic and trade relations through such measures as expanding market access lies with Japan. Among the opinion leaders respondents, there was a 5-point drop in those who see U.S. industries' weak competitiveness as a reason for the trade imbalance, and there was a 6-point drop in those who expect competition and friction to intensify in high-tech fields.

(See references 2-b, 3-b, 6-b, 9-a, 9-b, and 10 for the general public and references 2-b, 3-b, 7-b, 11-a, 11-b, 12-a, and 13 for opinion leaders.)

5. Evaluations of Japan's international role

On a question about whether Japan is playing a significant role in international affairs commensurate with its economic power, 67% of the general public and 55% of the opinion leaders agreed that Japan is doing what it should.

(See reference 4-a for the general public and reference 4 for opinion leaders.)

Survey Method

1. Survey period: February and March 1999

2. Survey method:
For the general-public sample, telephone interviews with 1,505 men and women aged 18 or over
For the opinion-leader sample, telephone interviews with 389 persons in leadership positions in the fields of government, business, academia, labor, media, and religion.

3. Level of confidence:
The margin of sampling error at the 95% level of confidence is ±3% for the general public and ±5% for the opinion leaders. (That is in 95 out of 100 times that a sample of this size is taken, the results would not vary by more than 3 or 5 percentage points, respectively, in either direction.)

4. Survey organization:
The Gallup Organization has been conducting the survey of opinions toward Japan in the United States under commission since 1960. Starting in 1972 the poll has been conducted on a separate sample of opinion leaders in addition to the general public, and it has been implemented annually in recent years.

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