Survey: As Abe Visits Trump, New Data on Public Opinion toward Japan

April 18, 2018

Americans are broadly favorable toward Japan, value the US alliance with the island nation, and see Japan as key to addressing regional challenges in East Asia, according to a new public opinion survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Conducted this spring (February 20 – March 6, 2018), the survey investigates how Americans view the US-Japan alliance in light of significant changes in the Asia-Pacific region, including North Korea's quest for a credible nuclear weapons threat and China's rising economic and military power.

Among key findings, the survey found:

  • At 64 percent favorable, Shinzo Abe is the most favored leader included in the survey, slightly ahead of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in (63 percent). Other leaders in the region—all from US competitors or adversaries— are much less popular.
  • Americans are broadly favorable towards Japan: more than eight in ten (86 percent) say that the United States and Japan are mostly partners, and on a scale of 0 to 100, where higher numbers represent warmer feelings towards the country, Japan was rated an average of 62.
  • As China’s power increases, Americans are clear: the United States should not seek to downplay its alliance with Japan in order to improve relations with China. Instead, 46 percent say that the United States should make no changes to the alliance and 43 percent prefer strengthening the US-Japan alliance to deal with a rising China.
  • Six in ten Americans (62 percent) say that China is a rising military power. However, only 39 percent see China’s military power as a critical threat facing the United States.
  • A plurality (46 percent) support Japan assuming greater responsibility to address regional challenges in East Asia. But Americans prefer that greater responsibility to take place within the existing framework of the alliance. Fifty-eight percent approve of Japan taking part in international peacekeeping operations, and one half (49 percent) support Japan building up its military. However, 39 percent support Japan undertaking independent combat missions.

For more data, including views of critical threats to the United States, support for the US-Japan alliance, and Japan's role promoting stability between North and South Korea, please view and download the full report here.

This report was produced in collaboration with the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The analysis in this report is based on data from a survey conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between February 20 and March 6, 2018 among a weighted national sample of 1,037 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is ±3.2 percentage points with a design effect of 1.1328.

Partisan identification is based on respondents’ answer to a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”

About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization that provides insight—and influences the public discourse—on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices, conduct independent research, and engage the public to explore ideas that will shape our global future. The Council is committed to bringing clarity and offering solutions to issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world. Learn more at and follow @ChicagoCouncil.