Ties with U.S. will Improve under Biden, Respondents in Japan Say in Yomiuri-Gallup Poll

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga bumps fists with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo instead of shaking hands before a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Oct. 6.

In anticipation of the start of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, an increasing number of people in Japan think that Japan-U.S. relations will improve, according to the latest annual joint poll conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and U.S. polling firm Gallup.

The poll also shows that the divisions in U.S. society that have deepened under the current administration of U.S. President Donald Trump have impacted issues ranging from U.S. foreign policy to measures to combat the novel coronavirus.

When asked about Japan-U.S. relations at present, 51% of respondents in Japan answered good or very good, a slight increase from the 48% in the previous poll taken in November 2019 and the first time in three years it exceeded 50%. Respondents who said relations are poor or very poor declined to 27% from 31% last year.

To the same question, 50% of U.S. respondents were positive about relations, down from 52% last year, while those who said relations are poor or very poor stood at 12%, up slightly from 10% a year ago.

When asked about the future of Japan-U.S. ties “now that Joe Biden has been elected as the next U.S. president,” 22% of respondents in Japan said relations will “get somewhat better” or “get much better,” double last year’s 11%. Although the figure is not high, it apparently reflects a favorable view among people in Japan toward the upcoming Biden administration.

In the four preceding annual polls, starting with one conducted right after Trump won the previous U.S. presidential election in 2016, respondents in Japan who said that future bilateral ties would get better hovered around 10%.

On the same question to U.S. respondents in this year’s poll, 44% said the relationship will “get somewhat better” or “get much better,” up from 39% a year ago, while 27% said relations will “get somewhat worse” or “get much worse,” up from 13% a year earlier.

When asked about the change in the global influence of the United States under the Republican Trump’s administration, 29% of respondents in Japan said it has increased, while in a 2016 poll only 18% had said the same for the eight years of Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration in which Biden was the vice president.

Respondents in Japan who said U.S. global influence has decreased stood at 27%, an improvement from 29% in the 2016 poll, and those who said it has stayed the same stood at 35%, down from 46% in the 2016 poll.

These changes have apparently stemmed from the impact of developments such as Trump taking a tough stance against China, including raising tariffs on Chinese imports, and having meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times.

U.S. respondents who said the global influence of the United States has decreased stood at 49%, worsening from the 44% in the 2016 poll, while those who said it has increased stood at 38%, also up from the 29% in the 2016 poll. Those who said it has stayed the same totaled 11%, down from 25% in the poll taken four years ago.

■ Views of China worsen

Courtesy of the Japan Coast Guard
A Japan Coast Guard patrol ship keeps watch on a Chinese vessel, background, in waters around the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

When asked about present relations between their country and China, 71% of respondents in Japan said poor or very poor, up from 60% in the previous poll, while 52% of U.S. respondents said likewise, up from 35% a year ago. With the U.S. figure at its highest since 2000, both countries exceeded 50% for the first time.

The distrust of China has also risen to record highs among respondents in both countries, with 91% in Japan saying they don’t trust China at all or very much, up from 88% in the previous poll, and 75% of the United States said likewise, up from 69% a year ago.

The perception of China worsened in both countries apparently because people’s sense of wariness has grown over the continuous intrusions of Chinese vessels into Japanese territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Also, China was involved in human rights problems in connection to Hong Kong and other areas.

Regarding Washington continuously exerting pressure on Beijing in the spheres of diplomacy and trade, more respondents in Japan and the United States agree than disagree with this U.S. policy.

By political party support in Japan, responses diverged, with 54% of respondents who support the ruling parties agreeing with the policy, while those who support opposition parties or have no party affiliation agree and disagree nearly equally at around 40%.

In the United States, 92% of Republican supporters agreed with the policy against China, while 57% of Democrat supporters disagreed with it.

To the question, “Which country, the United States or China, do you think will have the leading role in world affairs in the future?” 68% of respondents in Japan and 64% of U.S. respondents said the United States.

Similarly, 65% of Japanese respondents and 67% of U.S. respondents said they feel concerned about “personal data being collected through Chinese apps and devices.”