How America and Japan see the world
February 18th, 2013
12:52 PM ET

How America and Japan see the world

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travels to Washington this week to meet with President Barack Obama. This will be their first meeting since Abe was chosen for the second time to be prime minister and Obama secured a second term at the end of last year. But how do ties stand between the two countries?

Both leaders are riding a wave of relative popularity at home, strengthening their hands in dealing with mutual international challenges. And, unlike the Japan bashing days of the 1980s, when fear and resentment poisoned popular sentiment, Americans and Japanese actually like each other now. But public opinion on specific issues in both countries is likely to shape what Abe and Obama can and cannot accomplish.

The Obama that Abe will be meeting is in a stronger position than he was during much of his first term, enjoying a 52 percent job approval rating, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Among Japanese, about two-thirds back the Abe cabinet, at least according to a late January Kyodo News survey.

Meanwhile, about six in ten Americans today trust Japan, according to a Pew Research poll (the only nation they trust more is the United Kingdom, which is trusted by three quarters of Americans). And Japanese return the goodwill: 72 percent have a favorable view of the United States, one of the top favorability ratings among the 21 nations Pew Research surveyed last year. Moreover, three quarters of Japanese have confidence in Obama (compared with 25 percent who had confidence in George W. Bush in 2008).

But despite their affection for Obama, the Japanese are also disappointed in him. In 2009, just over half of Japanese expected Obama to get international approval before using military force, but only 29 percent say he has. Similarly, 58 percent thought he would be evenhanded in his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, yet just 17 percent say he actually has been.

All this suggests that when the Abe-Obama discussion gets down to concrete issues, there will be agreement, but also some differences.

The Obama administration would like to see Japan join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal Washington is negotiating with 10 other Asian-Pacific nations, which the White House hopes to complete by the end of this year. The economic benefits to the United States from the agreement would increase greatly if Japan is a member. And while TPP has little name recognition among average Americans, 60 percent do believe that increasing trade with Japan would be good for the United States. But Abe is wary because less than half of Japanese support joining TPP, according to a late 2012 Asahi Shimbun poll.

Japan’s growing tensions with China in the East China Sea and its implications for the U.S.-Japan military alliance may also be high on the agenda.

Americans have somewhat hawkish views on China, and when asked which country represents the greatest danger to the U.S., more Americans volunteered China than name any other nation, including Iran and North Korea, in a recent Pew Research survey.

And Americans and Japanese are both similarly skeptical of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, with 94 percent of respondents in both countries saying they were opposed to Tehran doing so, according to a 2012 Pew Research survey.

But what should be done to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons? Most Americans supports tougher sanctions, and Washington has leaned heavily on Tokyo to reduce oil imports from Iran (which it has), a topic Abe may hear more about in Washington. But those Japanese opposed to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are less supportive of such economic penalties, and this difference in opinion may weigh on the Abe government’s willingness to ratchet up Iranian sanctions in the months ahead.

Japanese and Americans also differ on the use of military force to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Fully 63 percent of Americans who oppose Tehran’s nuclear ambitions would consider such action, while only 40 percent of Japanese agree.

Ultimately, the U.S.-Japan relationship has gone through numerous ups and downs in the last few decades. Americans’ fears that Japan Inc. will overwhelm them have subsided. Yet challenges remain: how to jointly deal with China, North Korea and Iran, and whether Tokyo will join with other Asian governments and Washington in creating a transpacific free trade area.

The Abe-Obama summit cannot be expected to resolve all these differences. But the Japanese and American people are more predisposed to resolve their differences than they have been for years. The summit could not be happening at a more opportune and critical time.

Post by:
Topics: Japan • United States

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    The author should ask "How the world sees America and Ja pan – together". No doubt security is on top of the agenda and they will re-visit the plan to develop an anti-missile defence system in Asia, especially in light of North Korea's nuclear ambition. China and Russia believe it would destroy the balance of power in the region and slow down the process of reducing strategic weapons.

    February 19, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
    • bobpitt

      Isn't a bit lazy of the writer to allow just one comment? If you don't want comments just say so, but don't shut it off after just one.. you sure are lazy...

      February 22, 2013 at 9:15 am | Reply
      • bobpitt

        Bruce Stokes is a lazy bum..!!

        February 22, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • Nodack

        One comment? I must be imagining the other ones then and imagining the leave a post spot. Maybe they cut you off only.

        February 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tron San Hon





      March 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  2. sellthemusedundies

    We sell the used undies from our vending machines in Tokyo and other major cities. They love us, in a strange way...

    February 22, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply
  3. palintwit

    Historians now agree that the real reason the south lost the civil war is because generations of inbreeding resulted in many mentally challenged soldiers in the confederate army. That combined with their webbed feet made it nearly impossible for them to run from the union army.

    February 22, 2013 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • deathstalker187

      This is the second time I have seen this stupid comment. Whatever your supposed resource for this information is obviously way off track and probably a total fabrication.

      The south lost for two reasons. The first and primary reason for this was the significant lack of industry. The south was good for cotton and tobacco and many other types of food production. The north was good with manufacturing which translates into artillery, guns ammunition and equipment. The second reason is that they had the central government with better logistics along with more foreign aid.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Reply
      • Jeanne Mealy

        Don't feed the trolls....

        February 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • JT

        More people, too. I think it's best to ignore trolls like the one above. I too saw the other comment, and I wonder why there's no way to report comments on this blog like there is in the normal comment sections.

        February 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • Doh

        Congratulations, you just fell for his troll bait.

        February 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • bo

        third reason......Historians now agree that the real reason the south lost the civil war is because generations of inbreeding resulted in many mentally challenged soldiers in the confederate army. That combined with their webbed feet made it nearly impossible for them to run from the union army.

        February 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
      • Mack

        Whooaa!!!! Hey, I think he's pulling your leg there!! It's a joke.

        February 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


      February 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • BobWhiite

      Confederates had half the number of soldiers as the north, but had a higher kill total than the yanks. The southerners were superior marksmen.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
      • Hike Muckabee

        That's only because them good 'ol boys were used to chewin chaw and spittin to hit the spitoon.

        February 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
      • Notyer

        Considering at the time that an invading army was generally thought to need a 4-1 troop advantage to have an even shot of winning, the USA was literally twice as effective on a per-man basis as the CSA was. Does this mean anything about the quality of troops? No. The northern armies were superior mostly due to their manufacturing and logistical capabilities.

        February 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • MichaelVA

        The Rebel Army was better directed than that of the Union as well. Lee & Forrest were two of the best generals our country has ever produced, if you ask me.

        February 23, 2013 at 2:25 am |
      • NoTags

        Poor Union marksmanship was the reason Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871.

        February 23, 2013 at 7:14 am |
      • Nodack

        They were superior at losing too.

        February 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Jim

      I'm a "northerner" with mixed-race kids, three major religions in our family and I really don't like the idea that someone like Obama could ever become President. The guy has little experience in anything. And yet with your hateful comments about the South and the Civil War, I would bet that you're an Obama supporter. Good God, what a hateful creep you are.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Reply
      • Jim

        I forgot to mention my liger (half lion, haltiger), developmentally disabled goldfish, and the fact I enjoy ketchup on my Thai food. Good God, I am a sanctimonious tw1t!

        February 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • zeb

      your mom dropped you on your head when you were a baby, right?

      February 23, 2013 at 12:20 am | Reply
    • Dean

      The south lost the war because they had no manufacturing. And the whole United States has almost reached that point in the world today. Name a couple of major items that we manufacture today with parts totally made in the U.S.

      February 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Reply
    • The_Mick

      I'm very well studied on the Civil War (and from Union-loyal Maryland) and even studied books about Lee's problems with supply. deathstalker187 hit the South's problems dead-on. The lack of a central government led Confederate President Jefferson Davis to say that if the Confederacy lost the war, the epitaph on its tombstone should be, "Died of a Theory." While Lee's troops were freezing during the Winters, the Governor of South Carolina sat on 90,000 unused winter uniforms. In the early months of 1865, the union troops would make bets with each other over how many starving rebs would cross the lines to surrender each night. But when Grant broke through at Petersburg, then Richmond, he had no problem commandeering enough food to feed his army – which was three times as large as Lee's!

      February 23, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Reply
    • cybercmdr

      There are still some that say "The South shall rise again!" This I doubt, as they couldn't get it up the first time.

      February 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  4. Tom

    For information on what TPP is go to

    This is an important issue that should make headlines! But YOU have been kept in the dark.

    February 22, 2013 at 11:32 am | Reply
  5. Tom

    TPP shouldn't pass, it's against everything we should stand for as a nation.

    It's an anti-free speech censorship treaty made behind closed doors with the public deliberately excluded.

    February 22, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  6. Tom


    Be afraid, be very afraid. What you don't know WILL hurt you!!!!!

    There is a reason Americans haven't heard about TPP, if they had they would oppose it!

    February 22, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
  7. more2bits

    How can anyone who spends more than all the Presidents since Washington including Bush be liked by any SANE person of any race? Answer: Racism.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • Hike Muckabee


      February 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • MichaelVA

      Why do the skyrocketing costs of Social Security and Medicare (which we have known for decades was going to happen once the baby boomers reach retirement age), get blamed solely on our current president? Answer: racism. :-p

      February 23, 2013 at 2:33 am | Reply
      • Dean

        Well it was our current president that decided to reduce the funding of social security. As for the rest of the money you can thank Johnson for putting about 2 trillion dollars of social security funds into paying for other government spending.

        February 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • steve harnack

      Since that is an easily debunked lie you might want to ask yourself why you CHOOSE to believe a lie and pass that off as a reason to dislike Obama. Even if it were true it would be because the situation demanded it so your pointing to Obama as the culprit is still telling. It's called projection. Look it up.

      February 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
    • DaMeglet

      This is from factcheck dot org:
      The truth is that the nearly 18 percent spike in spending in fiscal 2009 — for which the president is sometimes blamed entirely — was mostly due to appropriations and policies that were already in place when Obama took office.

      That includes spending for the bank bailout legislation approved by President Bush. Annual increases in amounts actually spent since fiscal 2009 have been relatively modest. In fact, spending for the first seven months of the current fiscal year is running slightly below the same period last year, and below projections.
      The reason for your comment: Ignorance. Why don't you step out of your bubble and listen to something other than your Faux News or Rush Limbaugh propaganda?

      February 24, 2013 at 11:33 am | Reply
  8. uncsam

    Wow the 50 cent china army is in full swing today. Don't you trolls have better things to be doing? Perhaps cleaning your air and water. They don't call them cacer villages for nothing, ya know.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  9. JOE

    Just hope our President does not insult the Prime Minister we will need them just as much they will need us.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  10. Robert

    Crazy how much things can change. This is a country we nuked not that long ago.

    February 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Reply
    • Chris


      February 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Reply
      • cheapseats2

        It goes to show that decimating your enemy does have positive results in the long run. This new PC hearts and minds stuff only perpetuates the status quo and delays the inevitable.

        February 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • dangle66

      technically, we didn't nuke them... the bombs were atomic, not nuclear

      February 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Windyrotorblast

      I think about that a lot. In two sentences you made a very profound statement. Makes me wonder how political idealism would lead us to nuke people that we would otherwise have a beer with on a Sunday afternoon.

      February 24, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  11. empresstrudy

    Six out of 10 is 5% higher than Obama's favoritability rating, whichChris Matthews yesterday announced was the highest of any President every and clear evidence of a thousand year era of Obamism. All Hail

    February 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • You dope

      OH! I just got a shiver up my leg! Hail!!!!

      February 23, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  12. Coin pit

    OMG~I thought the world is peace, quiet and welcome for everyone. Today I just know that WE-CHINESE was seen as a danger to the U.S.~~How could I become threaten to Americans~Since, I don't even have a gun?

    February 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  13. pnm9pnm

    kim dont the werry i know wath he can do him dont mass up is charly what well that do WOW if u dopnt no,.pnm,.i do,.pnm,.

    February 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  14. simmy

    Who really cares what other countries think of Americans, I mean other nations all have their skeletons in the closet as well, they can bad mouth us until the next catastrophe comes along...right with our relief check~~~~~

    February 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  15. blaze562

    When they read about,hear about America, they see Money, It's all about Money, Money is what moves there world,
    Same thing about American Government, American corporations, it's all about money, all the from the bottom to the top and it really doesn't matter how much or how little they have of it they always want more and will not stop at anything to acquire it but what happens when the rich die?
    You can be rest assured they do not take it with them.

    February 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  16. Antny

    This is out of control. the south had no economy, vending machines, getting shivers, what up with thayt? I just heard of this new browswer called netscape? Any one hearf of it.

    February 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  17. Adalberto Cervantes Rodriguez

    Did Super User, Key users and Project Managers understand that China and its allies were attacking us in the 500 Fortune Companies? No, it was no clear to them, they did not realize the necessity of the ERP engineering, and they did not realize that we need the onshoring process in IT, the importance of development Made in America, among others. Because of that, we are exposed to terrorism at several level related to IT, finance, among others. It shows that they do not understand perfectly systems, IT and ERP, or even some of them are paid for the China imperium to not to say nothing. There is a lot to be investigated.

    February 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  18. tebow

    A more pertinent question is how Iraqis view the US.

    February 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Reply
    • Per Gynt

      Dimly. Through a cracked dark mirror.

      February 24, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  19. Per Gynt

    The point of this article being?

    February 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  20. Larry of Boston

    Watakushi wa Nihonjin o dai suki desu.........

    February 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Reply
    • nihonjin

      watakushi lol. should say watashi wa, unless you think of yourelf as conceited and above all others, then watakushi is correct. anata wa tanoshii desu yo.

      February 25, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
  21. Turner

    There really isn't anything that insightful or remotely newsworthy in this piece.

    February 25, 2013 at 2:58 am | Reply
  22. Exiled Phoenix

    The south lost the war because of poor logistics, poor overall military expertise and less manufacturing capabilities. Coupled with negligible international support. Still good riddance. No harm no foul on destroying the C.S.A.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:30 am | Reply
  23. Tom

    Wow, a mention of the TPPA on CNN!!

    I wonder how this got past?

    Big media wants TPPA, so YOU are kept in the dark because the average person (right or left) would be opposed to it. You know it must be bad when they have to hide it form the public!

    TPPA = lost jobs = lost freedom! Stop TPP !

    March 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  24. Tom

    go to EFF.ORG to learn more about Trans pacific partnership.
    What you don't know WILL hurt you!!!!


    March 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Reply
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    April 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Reply

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