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assertiveness, support for the American military bases in Japan has grown to 57 percent, while 34 percent want them withdrawn.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: PARENTS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH YOUTH FOOTBALL

Parents are worried about their children playing football, but most haven’t decided to keep their kids from putting on a helmet and stepping onto the field.

According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, nearly half of parents said they’re not comfortable letting their child play football amid growing uncertainty about the long-term impact of concussions.

In the poll, 44 percent of parents weren’t comfortable with their child playing football. The same percentage was uncomfortable with ice hockey, and 45 percent were uncomfortable with participation in wrestling. Only five percent, though, said they have discouraged their child from playing in the last two years as concern over head injuries has increased at all levels of the game.

The majority of parents said they are comfortable with participation in a host of other sports — including swimming, track and field, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball, among others.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted from July 24-28. It included interviews with 1,044 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The parents’ concern comes as several high-profile lawsuits have challenged how concussions have been addressed in pro and college sports. Thousands of pro players sued the NFL and a $675 million settlement that would compensate them for concussion-related claims is pending. A tentative settlement with the NCAA, meanwhile, would create a $70 million fund to test thousands of current and former college athletes for brain trauma.

Youth and high school programs have increased training available for coaches, and helmet companies are releasing new designs with the hope that they reduce the force of impact. But research is murky about whether or not they will be effective.

Participation statistics also show only a slight decline in the overall number of high school students playing football.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, nearly 1.1 million students played 11-man football during the 2012-13 school year. The number was down approximately 10,000 from the year before and more than 20,000 since 2009-08.

Cathy Curtin, a high school rifle coach in northeast Pennsylvania, is one parent who has discouraged her children from playing football in recent years.

Curtin, 52, has gone through concussion-related training for her job, but one issue that concerns her is how much of identifying a head injury relies on the student’s input following a collision. She said her 21-year-old son “would have said anything” to remain in the game while in high school, including hiding symptoms such as dizziness from a trainer or coach.

“Our training staff is good, but you can’t always know,” Curtin said. “You’re basing whether they can play on their say. And they are 16-year-old kids, 17-year-old kids who want more than anything to get out there and play.”

Curtin said her younger son broke his collarbone and leg while playing football as a freshman.

“Nowhere in that time did they check him for a concussion,” Curtin said. “So, if he got hit hard enough to break his collar bone and his leg, then how hard did he hit the ground, too?”

Football wasn’t the only sport Curtin said she was uncomfortable with. She also worries about hockey, wrestling and other high-impact competitions such as gymnastics and cheerleading. She’s encouraged by new advances — such as chin straps that change color when a player may have suffered a concussion — aimed at reducing and identifying head injuries, but she is also skeptical about school districts’ ability to afford new helmets.

JeMare Williams, 43, is no stranger to the possibility of getting a concussion while playing football. He thinks he “probably” suffered from one while in high school in St. Louis.

“I don’t really know, but I remember being hurt, being dizzy,” Williams said. “But during that time, there wasn’t a specific diagnosis like now.”

Now living in Henderson, Nevada, and with 17- and 11-year-old sons who play the game, Williams — an auto mechanic — has the same injury concerns as many parents. That said, he’s comfortable with his sons playing football — or any other sport they choose.

One of the primary reasons for Williams’ comfort level is because of the increased attention paid to head injuries over the last few years. He said coaches are trained more closely now to teach proper tackling techniques, as well as watch players for signs of concussions.

“There’s a lot of publicity on (concussions) now, and I think that makes it better,” Williams said. “So, I’m not as worried now.”


AP-GfK Poll: Most say the US is heading the wrong way, hope for new direction come November

By JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has checked out, and the American people have noticed.

Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It’s about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.

This time around, it’s not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection.

One-third say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall — which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress — a far less likely possibility.

The final third? They say it just doesn’t matter who takes control of Congress.

Overall, just 13 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress overall is handling its job.

There are some signs in the new poll that Republicans have gained ground as the height of the campaign approaches. In May, they trailed Democrats a bit on who ought to control Congress. Partisans are about equally likely to say they’d like to see their own in charge of Congress after November 4, with about three-quarters in each party saying they hope their side winds up in control. Democrats are a bit less apt to say they want their own party to win than they were in May, 74 percent in the new poll compared with 80 percent then.

And the GOP now holds narrow advantages over Democrats on handling an array of top issues, including the economy, immigration and the federal budget.

But neither party is trusted much to manage the federal government, with 27 percent having faith in the GOP to 24 percent in Democrats. More people, 31 percent, say they trust neither party to run the federal government.

Fewer people have confidence in the federal government’s ability to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014 than at the start of the year, with 74 percent saying they have little or no confidence. That’s a slight change from the 70 percent who said so in a December AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. That shift in confidence stems from a small drop-off among Democrats. While 56 percent lacked confidence in December, 62 percent say the same now.

Overall, few express faith in those currently on Capitol Hill. Just 36 percent say they’d like to see their own member of Congress re-elected, 62 percent say they want someone else to win this November. So far, just three House incumbents have been ousted in primaries this year, and none in the Senate. The Congressional approval rating, 13 percent in the new poll, lags behind President Barack Obama’s 40 percent.

Though the economy pushed the nation’s “right direction” figures to historic lows in the fall of 2008, that does not seem to be the culprit in the new poll. About a third (35 percent) say the economy is in good shape, about the same as in May, and 58 percent say the economy has stayed about the same in the past month.

The decline in optimism about the country’s path in the new poll seems to mirror those in October 2013 and August 2011, when congressional inaction led to the threat of a government shutdown in 2011 and a partial one in 2013. Among Democrats, the share saying the nation is heading in the right direction dipped 11 points since May, to 49 percent, while among independents, it’s down slightly to 23 percent. Among Republicans, the 9 percent saying the country is heading the right way is similar to May. The October 2013 and August 2011 declines in right direction were also driven by sharp drops among Democrats and independents.

Among those who say they are highly likely to vote this fall, just 8 percent say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, though 43 percent would like to see their member of Congress re-elected, a bit higher than among all adults. Republicans have an edge among this group as the party more preferred to control Congress, 43 percent to 34 percent, with 23 percent saying it doesn’t matter.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. It is larger for subgroups.

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

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Follow Jennifer Agiesta on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JennAgiesta

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com