Chicago Council Survey Shows Americans Support a Rebalance of U.S. Foreign Policy toward Asia

October 28, 2014
Seoul, South Korea
Americans show solid support for rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, an idea announced by the Obama administration in 2011. Six in ten Americans (60%) support the U.S. government’s plans to rebalance diplomatic and military resources away from the Middle East and Europe and more toward Asia, according to a major report released today by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
 
The report, based on findings from the Council’s 2014 survey of American public opinion on foreign policy, is being released at an event at Seoul National University in South Korea, hosted by the Korea Foundation, on October 29. An event is also being held on October 30 in Tokyo hosted by the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
 
“Americans seem to sense dividends from endorsing a broad range of current U.S. involvement in Asia, including sustaining regional alliances, maintaining an overseas U.S. military presence and signing free trade agreements,” said report author Dina Smeltz, senior fellow for public opinion and foreign policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
 
A solid majority of Americans (62%) say that the U.S. military presence in East Asia increases regional stability. Two in three Americans also say globalization is mostly good (65%) and support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (63%).
 
While a solid majority of Americans (67%) continue to support friendly relations with China, they express some discomfort about the economic impact of China’s rise.  Six in ten place a higher priority on cementing relations with existing regional allies rather than building new ties with China.
 
“Americans support U.S. involvement in Asia and seem to think that U.S. regional efforts are a positive influence on stability. And for their part, many Asian publics seem to trust the United States more than their immediate neighbors and support the U.S. presence in the region” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “This suggests that the United States’ regional role has staying power for the near future.”
 
In addition to China, the report covers American views on U.S. relations with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and North Korea. Key findings include:

China

  • Americans remain somewhat cool on China, giving it an average rating of 44 out of 100
  • Two in three Americans (67%) continue to say the U.S. should undertake friendly cooperation and engagement with China.
  • A plurality of Americans believes that China (45%) is a stronger economic power than the United States. But a majority thinks that the United States is the stronger military power (54%, vs. 14% who say China).
 

Japan

  • American favorability ratings of Japan are at an all-time high at 62 out of 100, where higher numbers mean a more positive rating.
  • A majority of Americans (55%) support long-term U.S. military bases in Japan.
  • Six in ten Americans (62%) correctly recognize that Japan is one of America’s top ten trading partners.
 

South Korea

  • American favorability of South Korea is also at an all-time high at 55 out of 100.
  • More than six in ten Americans (64%) say the U.S. should have long-term military bases in South Korea.
  • If North Korea were to attack South Korea, nearly half of Americans (47%) support sending U.S. troops to defend South Korea, the highest recorded level of support since 1974.
 

Taiwan

  • On a scale of 0 to 100, Americans give Taiwan a favorability rating of 52.
  • Americans tend to support maintaining military aid to Taiwan (46%), but only one in four (26%) would favor sending US troops to defend Taiwan if China were to invade.
 

North Korea

  • On a scale of 0 to 100, North Korea scores an average favorability rating of 23, the lowest of all nations presented.
  • Yet, a majority of Americans (61%) think US leaders should be ready to meet and talk with North Korean leaders.
  • A large majority (85%) supports diplomatic attempts to persuade North Korea to stop building its nuclear weapon capabilities.
  • Two-thirds of Americans (66%) support interdiction efforts to search North Korean ships for nuclear materials or arms.
 


The Council also released two policy papers based on the data written by Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mike Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an associate professor at Georgetown University.  These reports, commissioned by the Council, underscore the implications of the poll findings on the U.S.-ROK and U.S.-Japan relationships.
 
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Chicago Council Survey. The 2014 survey was made possible by generous support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the United States-Japan Foundation, and Chicago Council Chairman Lester Crown.
 
Data was collected between May 6 to May 29, 2014, among a national sample of 2,108 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is ± 2.1 percentage points. The full dataset from this year’s study will be made available on the website in January 2015.