December 8, 2016 | By Craig Kafura

#TBT 1990: The Looming Threat of Japan’s Economy and Soviet Military Might

In the spirit of Throw Back Thursday, Running Numbers is digging out its archived polls to look back at America’s foreign policy feelings of old. This week, we’re looking at the first time the Council asked Americans about their perceptions of various threats to the US and its interests.

The Chicago Council Survey began asking it’s battery of critical threats in 1990, and looking back at that first four-item battery shows just how much the world has changed since then. Then, Americans were most threatened by the economic power of Japan (60% critical threat), followed by the development of China as a world power (40%), the military power of the Soviet Union (33%), and economic competition from Europe (30%). 

While the Japanese postwar economic miracle turned the nation into an economic superpower, it also inflated an asset bubble that, by 1990, was already bursting. The Nikkei was already on the decline from its all-time high of 38,957 in December 1989, and land prices were soon to follow, marking the end of the bubble economy and the onset of economic problems that Japanese policymakers grapple with to this day.

Today, China is a world power and it appears the reality is less threatening than the hype. The Council now asks about the threat of China’s military power (38%) and economic power (30%), neither of which ranks highly for Americans, landing 9th and 11th out of 13 this year, respectively.

As for the Soviet Union, it dissolved September 1991, 11 months after the Council asked Americans if its military might was a threat to the US and much to the surprise of analysts, almost none of whom predicted its demise. More than two decades later, Russia is again an item in the Council’s threat battery, but no higher than the Soviets were in 1990: only three in ten Americans (30%) name Russia’s territorial ambitions as a critical threat.

Lastly, as Japan’s economy had a recession, so too has the European Union. The 2007 economic recession that hit the US hit Europe as well, exposing fault lines within the construction of the Eurozone, and today there are threats left and right to the very fabric of the EU following the UK’s Brexit vote.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive

| By Diana C. Mutz

How Trade Attitudes Changed from 2012-2016

Trade was an important issue in the recent presidential election, but not in the way the media and many prominent observers have led us to believe.  The dominant narrative in the media was that disgruntled manufacturing workers whose jobs had been sent overseas emerged, understandably, as trade’s strong opponents, thus making Trump with his strong anti-trade rhetoric their natural ally.


Who Run the World? Foreign Policy Attitudes on Women and Girls

In partnership with the New America Foundation, the 2016 Chicago Council Survey included two questions developed to provide better insight about the importance of promoting women's rights and women's participation in societies around the world. 


This Presidential Election Was All about Identity, Not Qualities and Issues

Donald Trump just pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in American political history, capturing the presidency last Tuesday night. How did it happen? This election was all about identity politics, with Trump able to connect with non-college whites, especially white men without a college degree.



| By Dina Smeltz

The US-Russian Relationship

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey partnered with the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow to ask Americans and Russians how they feel about each other and—more importantly—each other’s government. 


| By Richard C. Eichenberg

Gender Difference in Foreign Policy Opinions: Implications for 2016

There are three patterns in American politics that take on special significance in 2016: the gender divide in Presidential elections; the low support for Donald Trump among women; and the growing discussion in the foreign policy community about the inclusion of women in the policy process. Nonresident fellow Richard Eichenberg explores the extent of gender difference in the 2016 Chicago Council Survey data and assesses the relevance of any differences to this year’s presidential election.







The Surprising Popularity of Trade

Results from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey reveal that international trade and globalization remain popular with the American public. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff

On Terrorism, Americans See No End in Sight

The June 10-27 Chicago Council Survey finds that the American public considers international terrorism to be the most critical threat facing the nation. In combating terrorism Americans say that almost all options should be on the table, yet a large majority expect that occasional acts of terror will be a part of life in the future.


| By Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura

Americans Support Limited Military Action in Syria

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted June 10-27, reveals that Americans across partisan lines support limited military actions in Syria that combine air strikes and the use of Special Operations Forces. There are deep partisan divides on accepting Syrian refugees, and widespread skepticism toward arming anti-government groups or negotiating a deal that would leave President Assad in power.