By MALCOLM FOSTER

Japanese have become more welcoming to the U.S. military presence in their country over the past six years as fears spread that neighboring China and North Korea are threats to peace, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found.

The survey released Monday on Japanese views of other countries, security and the imperial family also showed that while about half of Japanese are positive about the U.S. and Germany, they are overwhelmingly negative or neutral toward immediate Asian neighbors China, Russia and North Korea. Opinions about South Korea are mixed.

Those attitudes, as well as results showing Japanese are reluctant to allow more foreign workers into the country, suggest a general wariness of outsiders. Some 46 percent are opposed to increasing the number of immigrants — more than double the share in favor of boosting their numbers — even though doing so would help offset the shrinking labor force as the population ages.

And while they gave their own elected leaders low marks, most Japanese think highly of the emperor and military.

Tokyo has cast a cautious eye toward China’s increased military spending and more assertive stance on disputed islands in the region. Ties between the two countries deteriorated to their worst point in years last autumn when a Chinese fishing trawler and Japanese patrol vessels collided near islands controlled by Japan but claimed by both in the East China Sea.

China’s state-run media have already issued warnings to new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for past statements suggesting that Beijing’s military buildup is a regional security threat.

For protection, Japan relies on its own military and nearly 50,000 U.S. troops based in the country under a 51-year-old joint security pact. That arrangement received extra scrutiny last year when former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sought — and ultimately failed — to move a controversial U.S. Marine base off the southern island of Okinawa.

American forces were also actively involved in humanitarian relief efforts after March’s tsunami disaster.

Amid public alarm about China’s assertiveness, support for the American military bases in Japan has grown to 57 percent, while 34 percent want them withdrawn. In a similar 2005 poll, Japanese were evenly divided on the issue at 47 percent.

“The U.S. military presence has received a greater acceptance, apparently because people think this region has grown more unstable than before,” Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said Monday in response to the results.

China is viewed as a threat to world peace by nearly three-quarters of respondents, and about as many have a negative impression of the country — which is also Japan’s largest trading partner. Unfavorable views of Chinese leader Hu Jintao outweigh favorable views by more than 11-to-1, the AP-GfK poll showed.

North Korea, meanwhile, is viewed as a threat by even more Japanese — 80 percent, up from 59 percent in 2005. The country, which fired missiles into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan in 2005 and again in 2006, is viewed negatively by 94 percent. Its leader, Kim Jong Il, is disliked by nine in 10.

Many Japanese are supportive of their own military, called the Self-Defense Forces, with 74 percent trusting it to do the right thing all or most of the time.

But people were mixed over changing the constitution to give the military a greater international role, although more favored such a change — 38 percent — than opposed — 28 percent. About a third were neutral.

The Japanese Constitution, drawn up by a U.S. occupation force after World War II, prohibits the creation of an armed force that can be maintained for offensive purposes. But under pressure from the U.S. to play a larger role in regional security, Japan has become more involved in peacekeeping operations abroad. It also sent refueling ships to the Indian Ocean to help with the Afghan war.

Most Japanese continue to hold Emperor Akihito, who lacks any political power, in high esteem: 70 percent view him favorably and 65 percent feel the Imperial family still fits well with modern Japanese society.

Still, just 22 percent would favor giving the emperor power to set government policy, while 43 percent oppose such an expansion of imperial power. About a third are neutral.

President Barack Obama is seen positively by 41 percent of respondents, with the same number viewing him in a neutral way. Some 16 percent see him unfavorably. As a country, the United States is seen favorably by 49 percent, neutrally by 36 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent.

Germany garnered the smallest unfavorable rating — just 4 percent — with 48 percent giving the country a thumbs up. Chancellor Angela Merkel garnered a neutral rating from just over half the respondents, while 28 percent view her positively and 7 percent negatively.

Neighboring South Korea, whose television dramas and “K-pop” singers have become increasingly popular in Japan, isn’t so popular itself, with 31 percent viewing the country positively and 27 percent negatively.

Russia, meanwhile, is viewed positively by just 11 percent and negatively by 44 percent.

Japan has come under fire internationally for its whale hunting, but the Japanese public narrowly favors whaling for commercial purposes, the survey showed. Fifty-two percent favor it, 35 percent are neutral and 13 percent are opposed. Far more men are in favor than women.

However, few — 12 percent — are deeply interested in eating whale meat themselves. Most — 66 percent— have little or no interest in dining on whale.

Commercial whaling is banned under a 1986 moratorium but various exceptions have allowed Japan, as well as Iceland and Norway, to hunt whales anyway. Japan claims its hunts are for research purposes, though the meat from the killed whales mostly ends up in restaurants, stores and school lunches.

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

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

 

How the AP-GfK poll on attitudes and opinions of Japanese public was conducted

 

By The Associated Press

 

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 aged 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 http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com.

 


AP-GfK Poll: Americans prefer low prices to items ‘Made in the USA’
WASHINGTON (AP) — The vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the U.S.A.,” even if it means those cheaper items are made abroad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

While presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are vowing to bring back millions of American jobs lost to China and other foreign competitors, public sentiment reflects core challenges confronting the U.S. economy. Incomes have barely improved, forcing many households to look for the most convenient bargains instead of goods made in America. Employers now seek workers with college degrees, leaving those with only a high school degree who once would have held assembly lines jobs in the lurch. And some Americans who work at companies with clients worldwide see themselves as part of a global market.

Nearly three in four say they would like to buy goods manufactured inside the United States, but those items are often too costly or difficult to find, according to the survey released Thursday. A mere 9 percent say they only buy American.

Asked about a real world example of choosing between $50 pants made in another country or an $85 pair made in the United States — one retailer sells two such pairs made with the same fabric and design — 67 percent say they’d buy the cheaper pair. Only 30 percent would pony up for the more expensive American-made one. People in higher earning households earning more than $100,000 a year are no less likely than lower-income Americans to say they’d go for the lower price.

“Low prices are a positive for US consumers — it stretches budgets and allows people to save for their retirements, if they’re wise, with dollars that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day living,” said Sonya Grob, 57, a middle school secretary from Norman, Oklahoma who described herself as a “liberal Democrat.”

But Trump and Sanders have galvanized many voters by attacking recent trade deals.

From their perspective, layoffs and shuttered factories have erased the benefits to the economy from reduced consumer prices.

“We’re getting ripped off on trade by everyone,” said Trump, the Republican front-runner, at a Monday speech in Albany, New York. “Jobs are going down the drain, folks.”

The real estate mogul and reality television star has threatened to shred the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has also threatened to slap sharp tariffs on China in hopes of erasing the overall $540 billion trade deficit.

Economists doubt that Trump could deliver on his promises to create the first trade surplus since 1975. Many see the backlash against trade as frustration with a broader economy coping with sluggish income gains.

“The reaction to trade is less about trade and more about the decline in people’s ability to achieve the American Dream,” said Caroline Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s a lot easier to blame the foreigner than other forces that are affecting stagnant wage growth like technology.”

But Trump’s message appeals to Merry Post, 58, of Paris, Texas where the empty factories are daily reminders of what was lost. Sixty-eight percent of people with a favorable opinion of Trump said that free trade agreements decreased the number of jobs available to Americans.

“In our area down here in Texas, there used to be sewing factories and a lot of cotton gins,” Post said. “I’ve watched them all shut down as things went to China, Mexico and the Philippines. All my friends had to take early retirements or walk away.”

Sanders, the Vermont senator battling for the Democratic nomination, has pledged to end the exodus of jobs overseas.

“I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have,” Sanders told the New York Daily News editorial board earlier this month, saying that the wages paid to foreigner workers and environmental standards would be part of any deal he would strike.

Still, voters are divided as to whether free trade agreements hurt job creation and incomes.

Americans are slightly more likely to say free trade agreements are positive for the economy overall than negative, 33 percent to 27 percent. But 37 percent say the deals make no difference. Republicans (35 percent) are more likely than Democrats (22 percent) to say free trade agreements are bad for the economy.

On jobs, 46 percent say the agreements decrease jobs for American workers, while 11 percent say they improve employment opportunities and 40 percent that they make no difference. Pessimism was especially pronounced among the 18 percent of respondents with a family member or friend whose job was offshored. Sixty-four percent of this group said free trade had decreased the availability of jobs.

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The AP-GfK Poll of 1,076 adults was conducted online March 31-April 4, 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 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

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Online:

http://ap-gfkpoll.com

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On Twitter follow Emily Swanson at @EL_Swan and Josh Boak at @joshboak


AP-GfK Poll: Public wants Senate action on court, but interest is modest

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 2 in 3 Americans back Democrats’ demands that the Republican-run Senate hold hearings and a vote on President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. But an Associated Press-GfK poll also suggests that GOP defiance against considering the nominee may not hurt the party much because, to many people, the election-year fight is simply not a big deal.

Just 1 in 5 in the survey released Wednesday said they’ve been following the battle over Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland extremely or very closely.

That included just 26 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans expressing intense interest, along with a scant 8 percent of independents. That aligns with the political reading of the issue by many Republicans that while it motivates each side’s most committed partisans, people in the middle consider it a yawner — making the fight essentially a wash.

Another clue that voters not dedicated to either party find the court fight tiresome: While just over half of Democrats and Republicans said the issue is extremely or very important, only around a third of independents — and half of Americans overall — said so.

About 8 in 10 said that about the economy and about 7 in 10 took the same stance about health care and the threat posed by the Islamic State group. Immigration and the U.S. role in world affairs both attracted slightly more intensity of interest than the court battle.

“It gets me irritated, the bickering and all that kind of stuff,” Julie Christopher, 49, a Republican and flight attendant from Fort Worth, Texas, said in a follow-up interview, describing her modest attention to the issue.

Christopher said that while she agrees with the GOP’s refusal to hold hearings on Garland, when it comes to backing candidates in November, “That’s not going to be my only thing, like boom, I’m not going to vote for them.”

Hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said his chamber would not consider an Obama nominee and would instead wait until the president elected this November makes a pick. With the remaining justices split 4-4 between those leaning conservative or liberal, most GOP senators have lined up behind McConnell.

Democrats have been spewing outrage ever since. Along with liberal groups, they’ve been using television ads, news conferences, public demonstrations and Senate speeches to ratchet up pressure on GOP senators, especially those facing re-election this fall in swing and Democratic-leaning states like Illinois, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Democrats’ theory is that the public wants Republicans to end their obstruction and let the Senate do its job, forcing GOP senators to relent on Garland or risk defeat in November. The AP-GfK poll has some data backing that up.

The 64 percent who favor hearings and a vote this year on Garland include an overwhelming proportion of Democrats and a sizable minority of Republicans, 40 percent. Independents, who can be pivotal in closely divided states, back action this year, 52 percent to 36 percent.

“I’d rather see at least deliberations, and see Congress do its job,” said Marc Frigon, 33, a high-tech worker from Beverly, Massachusetts, who leans Republican and wants the Senate to reject Garland’s confirmation. “I feel like that’s why we elected them in the first place.”

Just over half of moderate and liberal Republicans want the Senate to hold hearings this year, while fewer than 3 in 10 GOP conservatives say that.

Overall, people say by 59 percent to 36 percent that they want the Senate to approve Garland should a vote be held. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats favor confirmation and independents tilt slightly that way, while 69 percent of Republicans favor rejecting him.

In another sign that the public tips toward Obama on the issue, 57 percent approve of the way he’s been handling the Garland nomination. That’s more than the number who gave the president positive reviews on any other issue in the poll: the economy, health care, Islamic State militants, immigration and world affairs.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,076 adults was conducted online March 31-April 4, 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 3.3 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.

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Online:

http://ap-gfkpoll.com