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 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. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura

Republicans Back Trump, but Not All of his Policies

If the general election were held today, a solid majority of Republicans (including self-described Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents) say they would vote for Mr. Trump in the presidential contest against Secretary Clinton. But Donald Trump was not the top choice for many Republicans among the full field of primary candidates. While eventually deciding to back Trump, those who were hoping for a different nominee are not endorsing some of Trump’s key positions.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Flare-ups in Taiwan-China Relations Here to Stay

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Nuclear Energy: Americans Favor Stagnation

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The British Debate on Nuclear Disarmament

Last month the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a UK group founded in 1958, held its largest rally since 1983. Yet disarmament remains unpopular amongst the general public. 



| By Karl Friedhoff

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Karl Friedhoff looks at a survey conducted by the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which finds high levels of dissatisfaction among its members. But publicly available surveys of officers appear to be rare.

| By Craig Kafura

O Canada! Public Opinion and the US-Canada Relationship

Canada’s newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, recently enjoyed a successful state visit to the United States. While Canadian prime ministers don’t visit the United States as frequently as they used to, that doesn’t mean American enthusiasm for Canada has flagged.

| By Dina Smeltz

Iran Is Holding Elections, Too

Iran is holding parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections tomorrow. A recent University of Maryland survey of the Iranian public found that six in ten Iranians prefer that most of the parliament to be composed of the supporters of President Hassan Rouhani.