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 shows voter distaste for Putin-style leadership
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a leader — unlike what we have in this country.”

But most Americans don’t agree with Trump’s assessment of Putin’s leadership skills, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Only 24 percent of registered voters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to share, while 71 percent say he does not. In fact, a majority, 56 percent, said they have an unfavorable view of Putin, while only 10 percent said they view the Russian leader favorably.

 Voters were split on whether Trump would be too close to Putin, with 42 percent saying they think Trump would be too close, and 41 percent saying his approach would be about right. Fourteen percent think he would not be close enough.
By comparison, most voters (53 percent) think Democrat Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Putin would be about right, while 11 percent think she would be too close and 32 percent think she would not be close enough.

The relationship between the Republican nominee and the Russian strongman began taking on new life when Putin praised Trump last December as “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

The billionaire businessman hailed Putin’s regard for him as a “great honor,” brushing off widespread allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing of political dissidents and journalists.

“Our country does plenty of killing also,” Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in December.

Four in 10 Trump supporters and only 1 in 10 Hillary Clinton supporters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to have. Still, even among Trump’s supporters, just 16 percent have a favorable opinion of Putin. Only 5 percent of Clinton’s supporters do.

Marissa Garth, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Smithfield, Utah, said she plans to vote for Trump this November because he exhibits the qualities of a strong leader — not to be compared with Putin.

“I think (Putin) is a strong leader for his country,” she said. “But at the same time I don’t think he necessarily has the qualities that I would want as a president.”

In fact, the poll finds that men are more likely than women to say that Putin has leadership qualities that would be good in an American president, 28 percent to 19 percent.

Among Clinton’s supporters, 69 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin. Forty-nine percent of those supporting another candidate share that view, but only 8 percent of Trump supporters say their candidate would be too close to Putin. Eighty percent of Trump supporters say his approach would be about right. Among conservatives, 20 percent say Trump would be too close to Putin.

There is nothing 54-year old Gary Sellers, of Homewood, Illinois, likes about Putin — or Trump. He called Putin a “dictator,” adding, “there are no qualities of his that I wish that an American president would have.”

A lukewarm Clinton supporter, he’s concerned that Trump shares Putin’s extreme views of governing. “I feel he has a dictatorial approach toward being president of the United States,” Sellers said of Trump.

Forty-seven percent of voters say they approve and 52 percent disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia.

Voters are divided over whether the next president should take a tougher approach to Putin (42 percent) or whether the current approach is about right (39 percent). Just 16 percent think the next president should take a friendlier approach.

Just under half of voters (48 percent) say the U.S. relationship with Russia is a very or extremely important issue, ranking it low on Americans’ list of priorities, far below issues like the economy (92 percent), the threat posed by the Islamic State group (70 percent), the U.S. role in world affairs more generally (68 percent) and immigration (60 percent).

There’s a generational divide over Russia. Two-thirds of voters age 65 and over and more than half of those between 50 and 64 call the U.S. relationship with Russia very or extremely important, while only 4 in 10 30-49 year olds and only a third of those under 30 say the same.

Generally speaking, voters are more likely to say they trust Clinton than Trump on negotiating with Russia, 40 percent to 33 percent. Nineteen percent say they trust neither and 7 percent trust both equally.

John Eppenger, 68, a retiree in Fairfield, Ala., said that when it comes to dealing with Russia, Clinton would “do a much better job than Trump. She’s not perfect, she’s not ideal, but she’s better.”


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, 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 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.5 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:

AP-GfK Poll: Majority of Americans fear Trump presidency


NEW YORK (AP) — More than half the country fears a Trump presidency. And only about a third of Americans believe he is at least somewhat qualified to serve in the White House.

In the final sprint to Election Day, a new Associated Press-GfK poll underscores those daunting roadblocks for Donald Trump as he tries to overtake Hillary Clinton.

Moreover, most voters oppose the hard-line approach to immigration that is a centerpiece of the billionaire businessman’s campaign. They are more likely to trust Clinton to handle a variety of issues facing the country, and Trump has no advantage on the national security topics also at the forefront of his bid.

Trump undoubtedly has a passionate base of support, seen clearly among the thousands of backers who fill the stands at his signature rallies. But most people don’t share that fervor. Only 29 percent of registered voters would be excited and just 24 percent would be proud should Trump prevail in November.

Only one in four voters find him even somewhat civil or compassionate, and just a third say he’s not at all racist.

“We as Americans should be embarrassed about Donald Trump,” said Michael DeLuise, 66, a retired university vice president and registered Republican who lives in Eugene, Oregon. “We as Americans have always been able to look at the wacky leaders of other countries and say ‘Phew, that’s not us.’ We couldn’t if Trump wins. It’s like putting P.T. Barnum in charge. And it’s getting dangerous.”

To be sure, the nation is sour on Clinton, too. Only 39 percent of voters have a favorable view of the Democratic nominee, compared to the 56 percent who view her unfavorably. Less than a third say they would be excited or proud should she move into the White House.

“I think she’s an extremely dishonest person and have extreme disdain for her and her husband,” said one registered Republican, Denise Pettitte, 36, from Watertown, Wisconsin. “I think it would be wonderful to elect a woman, but a different woman.”

But as poorly as voters may view Clinton, they think even less of Trump.

Forty-four percent say they would be afraid if Clinton, the former secretary of state, is elected, far less than say the same of Trump. He’s viewed more unfavorably than favorably by a 61 percent to 34 percent margin, and more say their unfavorable opinion of the New Yorker is a strong one than say the same of Clinton, 50 percent to 44 percent.

That deep distain for both candidates prompts three-quarters of voters to say that a big reason they’ll be casting their ballot is to stop someone, rather than elect someone.

“It’s not really a vote for her as it’s a vote against Trump,” said Mark Corbin, 59, a business administrator and registered Democrat from Media, Pennsylvania.

Roughly half of voters see Clinton at least somewhat qualified, while just 30 percent say Trump is.

Even when it comes to what may be Clinton’s greatest weakness, the perception that she is dishonest, Trump fails to perform much better: 71 percent say she’s only slightly or not at all honest, while 66 percent say the same of Trump. Forty-nine percent say Clinton is at least somewhat corrupt, but 43 percent say that of Trump.

“Whatever her problems are, they don’t even come close to him,” said JoAnn Dinkelman, 66, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, California, who will cross party lines and vote for Clinton. “Everything that comes out of his mouth that is fact-checked turns out to be a lie.”

Trump finds no respite with voters when it comes to what he vows to do as president, either.

Nearly 6 in 10 oppose his promise to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and only 21 percent of his supporters and 9 percent of registered voters overall are very confident he would succeed at fulfilling his promise that Mexico would pay for the construction.

Six in 10 believe there should be a way for immigrants living in the country illegally to become U.S. citizens — a view that Trump opposes.

“The wall isn’t the answer. It’s not feasible and Mexico won’t pay for it,” said Timothy Seitz, 26, a graduate student at the Ohio State University and a Republican. “We should be leaders. We shouldn’t cower from others and cut ourselves off in the world.”

Beyond immigration, voters say they trust Clinton over Trump by wide margins when it comes to health care, race relations and negotiations with Russia. She also narrowly tops Trump when it comes to filling Supreme Court vacancies, as well as another of the billionaire’s signature issues: handling international trade.

Trump is narrowly favored on creating jobs, 39 percent to 35 percent, while in general, voters are about equally split on which candidate would better handle the economy. Voters are slightly more likely to trust Trump than Clinton on handling gun laws, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Voters are closely split on which candidate would better handle protecting the country and evenly divided on which would better handle the threat posed by the Islamic State group. And Americans are much more likely to say they trust Clinton than Trump to do a better job handling the U.S. image abroad.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, 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 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters plus or minus 2.7 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: