TOKYO — A series of recent opinion polls is giving U.S. Embassy officials a warm feeling about the relationship between the United States and Japan and the attitudes toward the security agreements between the two nations.
About once a year, the embassy contracts a business in Japan to conduct a survey to measure Japanese attitudes toward Americans and the security alliance that allows 50,000 U.S. troops to live in the country.
This year’s poll, taken in May and June, showed 80 percent of the 1,012 adults surveyed across Japan favor the U.S. alliance — the fourth consecutive year that opinion increased, according to Andrew Lee, the embassy’s assistant press attaché.
The poll also showed 73 percent believe the U.S. military presence in east Asia is important and 67 percent believe U.S. bases in Japan are important.
The poll shows that Japanese support the role of U.S. troops stationed here, embassy officials say, though it does not ask their attitude about U.S. servicemembers and operations specifically.
“People can dislike the [Jet] noise, about being woken up at night, but it doesn’t mean they dislike the United States and the security alliance,” said William Morgan, the embassy’s minister-counselor for public affairs. “What we’ve seen is, in the last 40 years, a steady growth in support for the alliance.”
The data are supported by similar nongovernmental polls, Lee noted.
He highlighted a global attitudes poll from Pew Research Center in Washington this year that found Japanese people have the most favorable opinion of America of about 14 allied countries, though the Japanese favorable rate dropped from 77 percent in 2000 to 63 percent this year, according to a research paper released in June.
“This country is extremely supportive of the U.S.,” Morgan said. “The basic message is this is a very welcoming country.”
Japan, meanwhile, has reported that the high regard is reciprocated.
Last year, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs polled Americans in the U.S. about their attitude toward the Japanese, and the poll found Americans consider Japan to be among their most dependable allies.
Favorable results in opinion surveys are important to balance the negativity that comes after criminal incidents involving servicemembers in Japan, Morgan said. And servicemembers might need a reminder that the security they provide is appreciated, he said.
“It’s a big success story. Once in a while we ought to acknowledge that,” he said. “People serving here should feel like Japanese people support what we do and value what they do.”
About once a year, the U.S. Embassy in Japan polls Japanese citizens across the country about their perceptions of the U.S. presence in Japan and the security alliance. Here are some of the questions and responses from this year’s poll of 1,012 Japanese citizens taken in May and June:
Q: On balance, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose maintaining the security alliance with the U.S.?
- 80 percent responded with strongly favor or somewhat favor
Q: The U.S. plans to maintain a military presence in east Asia. In your opinion, how important is this U.S. military presence for preserving peace and stability in the region — very important, fairly important, not very important, or not at all important?
- 73 percent responded very or fairly important
Q: In your opinion, how important are the U.S. military bases in Japan for preserving peace and stability in the region — very important, fairly important, not very important, or not at all important?
- 67 percent responded very or fairly important
Source: June 19, 2006, U.S. Embassy report: Alliance Transformation and Public Opinion in Japan
— Juliana Gittler