By MALCOM FOSTER, Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — This year’s tsunami and nuclear disasters have severely shaken the Japanese public’s confidence in their government, and many are pessimistic about the country’s future, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found.

The results released Thursday also show that Japanese generally distrust their leaders and that nearly 60 percent believe the country is heading in the wrong direction — a sobering welcome for Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, elected this week.

Five months after the triple catastrophes — the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident — nearly three-quarters of the people lack confidence in the government’s ability to handle another major disaster. Eighty percent felt deeply that leaders were not telling them the truth about the crises, and a slight majority want to reduce the number of nuclear reactors in the nation.

Overall, Japanese are gloomy about the state of their country, currently and in the future.

Nearly two-thirds believe Japan is a weaker international power than it was 10 years ago, and a startling 84 percent of respondents believe the economy, overtaken by China’s to slide to third globally, is in poor shape. Some 44 percent believe children born today will be worse off when they grow up than people are now.

That pessimism reflects the complex mix of problems and attitudes confronting Noda as he replaces Naoto Kan, whose 15-month tenure ended amid widespread criticism of his administration’s handling of the disasters.

Some 100,000 residents from around the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant remain dislocated with no clear idea when they will be able to return to their homes. Residents in the scores of towns and villages along the tsunami-wracked northeastern coast are still cleaning up and fault the central government for being preoccupied with the nuclear crisis.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the plant, received a harsh assessment, with 8 in 10 people disapproving of its response to the disaster, while Kan and the nuclear safety agency got thumbs down from three-quarters of respondents.

However, the Japanese military, which mobilized quickly in relief work after the tsunami, got positive reviews from 9 out of 10 people, the AP-GfK poll found.

Since the March 11 disasters, some 82 percent doubted the government’s ability to help them in the event of such an emergency — cited as a deep feeling by 82 percent. Three quarters reported feeling generally less safe than before March 11, and two-thirds were angry that relief was slow in reaching victims.

Americans’ emotions following Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans were less intense and focused more on anger (67 percent reporting this as a deep feeling) than fears for their personal safety, cited by 30 percent, or doubts about the government’s ability to help them in a disaster (44 percent).

The widespread disappointment reflected in the poll is “sad, but it shows that people are looking at things honestly” and that they believe the response to the disasters “has been unsatisfactory,” said Tetsuro Kato, a political science professor at Waseda University.

“The disasters could have been used to chart a new direction” for Japan and its leaders, “but that didn’t happen,” Kato said. “It was a missed opportunity.”

“Some probably want to scream,” Kato said.

The Fukushima accident has triggered debate in Japan about the future role of nuclear power in this earthquake-prone nation, which got 30 percent of its electricity from atomic power plants before the accident. The government has since scrapped its plan to boost that level to 50 percent by 2030.

The poll found that few in Japan have confidence in the nation’s nuclear power plants — only 5 percent were either extremely or very confident, while 60 percent had little or no confidence.

A slight majority, 55 percent, want to reduce the number of atomic power plants, while 35 percent would like to leave the number about the same. Four percent want an increase while 3 percent want to eliminate them entirely.

Overall, 59 percent felt the country was headed in the wrong direction, while 63 percent believe Japan’s international power is weaker than 10 years ago.

“From abroad, Japan appears to be turning inward,” said Kato, who was in the U.S. last week. He also bemoaned the lack of robust debate about the nuclear crisis in the brief campaign among candidates who fought to replace Kan — a race Noda won.

Still, on a personal level a majority of Japanese, or 56 percent, say they are happy with the way things are going in their lives. Just 11 percent consider themselves mostly unhappy, while a third are neither happy or unhappy.

More women say they are happy than men (65 percent versus 47 percent). Married people also say they are happier than singles (60 percent versus 47 percent).

The AP-GfK telephone poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications surveyed 1,000 adults across Japan between July 29 and Aug. 10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Recovery from the quake and tsunami is clearly viewed as the top priority for the nation, cited as the most important goal Japan over the next 10 years by nearly all surveyed. Nine in 10 said recovering from events of March 11 was the most serious problem facing the country.

The aging population was viewed as the second most serious problem, cited by 78 percent as either very or extremely serious.

Third was the lack of a stable government, cited by nearly three-quarters — highlighted by Noda’s recent appointment as the sixth prime minister in five years.

But respondents were divided over whether they favored a fixed four-year term for the prime minister, similar to the U.S. president. Thirty percent favored such a change, while 31 percent opposed it, and 38 percent took neither stance.

No branch of the government has the trust of a majority to do the right thing most of the time. Sixty-five percent trust the parliament to do so less than half the time, and 59 percent hold that view of the Cabinet.

Also, a whopping 85 percent say elected officials are more interested in serving special interests than the people they represent.

On the economic front, 70 percent said conditions are worse today than five years ago, and about a third predicted that they would be worse five years from now — although 42 percent believed they would be about the same.

As in the U.S., the Japanese rate their own personal finances more highly than the nation’s economy.

Still, just 19 percent rate their finances as excellent or in good shape, 53 percent say they are fair and 28 percent say they are poor. About a third say their family’s financial health has declined in the last five years, 13 percent think it’s gotten better and 52 percent say it’s held steady.


On the Web:



How the poll was conducted



The Associated Press-GfK Poll on the attitudes and opinions of Japanese was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from July 29 to Aug. 10. It is based on landline telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,000 adults.

The survey sample frame includes Japanese households that have at least one fixed telephone landline, or about 91 percent of all Japanese households, and represents the national population of Japan age 18 and older living in the 47 prefectures (states).

Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed numbers. The sample was stratified by region with targets set for the number of complete calls per region.

Interviews were conducted in Japanese by live interviewers in a Tokyo-based telephone interviewing center.

As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s composition. That included Japan’s mix by age within sex, city or region, and by education.

No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.8 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all adults in Japan were polled.

There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

The questions and results are available at

AP-GfK Poll: Americans go to polls against backdrop of an uneven economy


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is lifting job growth and wages but not voters’ spirits.

Americans are choosing a president against a backdrop of slow but steady growth that has managed to restore the economy from the crushing setback of the Great Recession. The government’s October jobs report , released Friday, showed that hiring remains solid, with 161,000 jobs added. The unemployment rate is a low 4.9 percent.

Yet the recovery, the slowest since World War II, has left many Americans feeling left behind, especially those who lack high skills or education or who live outside major population centers.

“The (typical) U.S. household is in a much better spot than they were eight years ago,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “But it hasn’t been a great decade for anyone either. You’ve still got a big chunk of the population who feels this hasn’t worked for them.”

The economy’s weak spots are a top concern for a majority of voters, who say the U.S. economy is in poor shape, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. At the same time, they say their own personal finances are good.

Fifty-three percent of voters say the economy is “poor,” while 46 percent say “good,” according to the poll, conducted Oct. 20-24. Yet 65 percent say their own finances are good, versus 34 percent who rate them poor.

Seventy-three percent of Hillary Clinton supporters say that economy is good; just 16 percent of Donald Trump supporters say so.

And while 60 percent of whites say the economy is poor, 60 percent of nonwhites call it good. Yet whites and nonwhites are about equally likely to say their own personal finances are good.

Consider 73-year-old Charles Muller, who lives outside Trenton, New Jersey, and describes his personal finances as fine. He has a pension from 26 years as a state employee and receives Social Security.

But the broader economy seems fairly weak to Muller. A friend was laid off during the recession, then earned a teaching certificate, and yet still can’t find a full-time teaching job. And a friend’s daughter who recently graduated from college is stuck as an assistant manager of a dollar store.

“I know a lot of people who are struggling and have been unable to find jobs commensurate with their education levels,” Muller said. He is supporting Trump, though he sees the major presidential nominees as “the two worst candidates I’ve ever been given a choice of.”

Here’s a snapshot of the U.S. economy of the eve of the elections:



The job market has provide itself resilient.

Employers have added an average of 181,000 jobs a month this year. That’s down from last year’s robust 229,000 average. But it’s nearly double the monthly pace needed to lower the unemployment rate over time. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits is near a 40-year low — evidence that layoffs are scarce and most Americans are enjoying strong job security.

Blake Zalcberg, president of OFM, a furniture manufacturer in Raleigh, North Carolina, hopes to add nine employees to his 58-person company, including graphic artists, photographers and sales staff. He expects sales to grow by a third next year:

“It’s a fairly robust furniture market,” he said.



With the unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent from the a peak of 10 percent in 2009, businesses have been forced to compete harder for new employees. That’s giving workers more bargaining power when they seek new jobs and finally boosting pay. Average hourly wages grew 2.8 percent in October from a year earlier — the fastest 12-month pace in seven years. Still, historically speaking, that’s still not great. Wages typically rise at about 3.5 percent each year in a healthy economy.



Steady hiring and modest pay increases have emboldened more Americans to buy high-cost items like new cars. Auto sales are running near last year’s record pace of more than 17 million vehicles. Yet caution still reigns: Americans’ spending grew just 2.1 percent in the July-August quarter, down from a much healthier 4.3 percent in the previous three months.



The bursting of the last decade’s housing bubble wiped out trillions in household wealth, cost more than 5 million Americans their homes and triggered the Great Recession. Yet the home market has mostly recovered, with purchase prices just 7 percent below their 2006 peaks. Greater home values have helped many families recoup some of their lost wealth. Sales of existing homes have plateaued this year at a nearly healthy level of about 5.4 million.

Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, foresees sales growth slowing slow next year. But more younger Americans are starting to buy homes, suggesting that millennials are tiring of living in apartments — or their parents’ basements— and are starting to move out.



Companies with optimistic outlooks typically spend more on computers, machinery and other equipment to keep up with demand. Instead, in recent months the opposite has happened: Business investment in new equipment has fallen for four straight quarters. Some of that pullback occurred because oil drillers slashed spending on steel pipe and other gear in response to sharply lower oil prices. But many companies are also likely holding off on new spending until after the election, when potential economic policy changes will be clearer.



The U.S. economy has failed to grow much more efficient. Since the recession began in 2007, productivity — or output per hour of work — has grown at less than one-third the annual pace it did from 2000 through 2007. Rising productivity is vital to raising living standards, because it enables companies to raise pay without raising prices.

Economists blame a range of factors for the slowdown: Americans are starting fewer new companies, which tend to be quicker to adopt new technologies. And weaker investment in roads, ports and other infrastructure has slowed shipping and commuting times.



Millions of Americans haven’t benefited from the consistent hiring of the past several years. Middle-income jobs in manufacturing and office work were permanently lost in the recession and have been replaced by lower-paying work in retail and fast food. Many of the unemployed have given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.

Nicholas Eberstadt, author of a new book, “Men Without Work,” notes that this has been a long-term phenomenon. For every unemployed man ages 25 through 54, three others are neither working nor looking for work. That ratio has doubled since 1990.


AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.


Follow Chris Rugaber on Twitter at

AP-GfK Poll: Most believe allegations about Trump and women
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s behavior has long grated on Carolyn Miller, but the allegations he sexually assaulted women was one factor that helped her decide in the last week to cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t think she’s a bad person. Trump, I think, is a bad person,” the 70-year-old Fort Myers, Florida, resident said. As for Trump’s accusers, Miller added, “I believe them.” And she said her vote for Clinton is “a default.”

Miller is among the more than 7 in 10 Americans who say in a new Associated Press-GfK poll that they believe the women who say the Republican presidential candidate kissed or groped them without their consent, a verdict that may have turned off enough voters, including some Republicans, to add to his challenges in the presidential race.

 Forty-two percent of Republican voters and 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters think the accusations are probably true. Men and women are about equally likely to think so.

While the poll suggests the wave of allegations about Trump’s treatment of women may blunt the impact of voters’ concerns about Clinton, it was taken before Friday’s news that the FBI will investigate whether there is classified information in newly uncovered emails related to its probe of her private server. Those emails were not from her server, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Before the development, the poll found that about half of voters say her use of the private server while she was secretary of state makes them less likely to vote for her. But they were more likely to say that Trump’s comments about women bother them a lot than to say the same about Clinton’s email server, 51 percent to 43 percent.

Since September, Clinton seems to have consolidated her support within her own party and drawn undecided voters such as Miller to her campaign, or at least pushed them away from Trump. The billionaire’s recent trouble with women seems to be one factor preventing him from doing the same.

He feuded with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado after Clinton noted he’d called her “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight while she wore the crown. Days later, a 2005 recording surfaced in which Trump can be heard describing himself sexually assaulting women in a conversation with Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood.”

Several women have since publicly accused Trump of groping and kissing them without permission, including a People magazine reporter who said Trump attacked her when his wife, Melania, was out of the room.

Trump called his remarks on the video “locker room talk,” dismissed the accusations as “fiction” and said of several accusers that they aren’t attractive enough to merit his attention.

Asked Thursday on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” whether he thinks he would be ahead were it not for the “Access Hollywood” video, Trump replied, “I just don’t know. I think it was very negative.”

A majority of voters, 52 percent, say allegations about the way Trump treats women make them less likely to vote for him, including a fifth of Republican likely voters. And within that group, only about a third say they will vote for him, with about a third supporting Clinton and the remainder supporting third party candidates.

That may help explain why just 79 percent of Republican in the poll said they’re supporting Trump compared with 90 percent of Democrats supporting Clinton. Trump needs to close that gap to have any shot at victory.

Trump has tried to equate the accusations against him with charges of infidelity and sexual assault leveled for years against his rival’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. Trump has paraded the former president’s accusers before the cameras and accused Hillary Clinton of undermining her husband’s accusers.

The poll shows a majority of voters don’t buy Trump’s attempt at equivalence. Six in 10 say the allegations against the Clintons have no impact on their vote. That’s despite the fact that 63 percent think Hillary Clinton has probably threatened or undermined women who have accused her husband of sexual misconduct.

“The vote will be about Hillary Clinton, not her husband,” said Ryan Otteson, 33, of Salt Lake City, who’s voting for a third-party candidate, conservative independent Evan McMullin.

Valori Waggoner, a 26-year-old from Belton, Texas, said she believes Hillary Clinton probably did intimidate her husband’s accusers, but she said it makes no difference to how Waggoner is voting.

Waggoner was not going to vote for Clinton anyway, because as a doctor, Waggoner said she sees firsthand the inefficiency of the national health care plan that Clinton supports. But the alleged wrongdoing by Trump made her less likely to vote for the Republican. Instead, she’s backing Libertarian Gary Johnson.

The degree of alleged wrongdoing by the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, Waggoner said, “are not equal.”

Most likely voters in the poll say they think Trump has little to no respect for women, with female voters especially likely to say he has none at all.

Clinton leads female likely voters by a 22 point margin in the poll, and even has a slight 5 point lead among men. In September’s AP-GfK poll, Clinton led women by a 17 point margin and trailed slightly by 6 points among men.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.



Poll results: