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assertiveness, support for the American military bases in Japan has grown to 57 percent, while 34 percent want them withdrawn.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: No agreement on how to pay for highways

By JOAN LOWY and JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Small wonder Congress has kept federal highway and transit programs teetering on the edge of insolvency for years, unable to find a politically acceptable long-term source of funds. The public can’t make up its mind on how to pay for them either.

Six in 10 Americans think the economic benefits of good highways, railroads and airports outweigh the cost to taxpayers. Yet there is scant support for some of the most frequently discussed options for paying for construction of new roads or the upkeep of existing ones, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Among those who drive places multiple times per week, 62 percent say the benefits outweigh the costs. Among those who drive less than once a week or not at all, 55 percent say the costs of road improvement are worthwhile.

Yet a majority of all Americans — 58 percent — oppose raising federal gasoline taxes to fund transportation projects such as the repair, replacement or expansion of roads and bridges. Only 14 percent support an increase. And by a better than 2-to-1 margin, Americans oppose having private companies pay for construction of new roads and bridges in exchange for the right to charge tolls. Moving to a usage tax based on how many miles a vehicle drives also draws more opposition than support — 40 percent oppose it, while 20 percent support it.

Support for shifting more responsibility for paying for such projects to state and local government is a tepid 30 percent.

“Congress is actually reflecting what people want,” said Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a transportation think tank. “People want to have a federal (transportation) program and they don’t want to pay for it.”

Last week, Congress cobbled together $10.8 billion to keep transportation aid flowing to states by changing how employers fund worker pension programs, extending customs user fees and transferring money from a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks. The money was needed to make up a shortfall between aid promised to states and revenue raised by the federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax and the 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax, which haven’t been increased in more than 20 years.

It’s the fifth time in the last six years that Congress has patched a hole in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for highway and transit aid. Each time it gets more difficult for lawmakers to find the money without increasing the federal budget deficit. Critics described the pension funding changes used this time as budget gimmicks that would cost the government more in the long run and undermine employee pension programs.

The latest patch cleared Congress about three hours before midnight last Thursday, the day before the Transportation Department said it would begin cutting back aid payments to states. The current fix is only expected to cover the revenue gap through next May, when Congress will be back where it started unless lawmakers act sooner.

The most direct solution would be to raise fuel taxes. That’s what three blue-ribbon federal commissions have recommended. But opposition to a gas tax increase cuts across party lines, although Republicans are more apt to oppose an increase, 70 percent, than Democrats, 52 percent.

“Every time we turn around there’s another tax, and our gas taxes are so high now,” said James Lane, 52, of Henry County in rural south-central Virginia, who described himself as leaning toward the GOP.

Lane favors allowing companies to pay for the construction of new or expanded roads and bridges in exchange for the right impose tolls on motorists, often for many decades. There have been projects like that in Virginia, but since those roads are in more populated areas of the state where he doesn’t drive it makes sense to have the people who use them pay for them, he said.

But Michael Murphy, 63, a data services contractor who lives near San Antonio, Texas, where a high-speed public-private toll road is scheduled to open this fall, said he’d rather see gas taxes increased than tolls imposed on drivers. Roads benefit everyone, even if indirectly, so it’s only fair that everyone who drives pays something toward their cost, he said.

A majority of those surveyed, 56 percent, say traffic in the area where they live has gotten worse in the last five years. Only 6 percent say traffic has improved in their area, and 33 percent that it’s stayed about the same.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28 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. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents, 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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Online:

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

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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy


AP-GfK poll: Americans ready to close the book on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — Three in four Americans think history will judge the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as failures, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows that about the same percentage think it was right to pull forces from the two countries.

Americans surveyed in last month’s poll were not optimistic about the chance that a stable democratic government will be established in either country. Seventy-eight percent said it was either not too likely or not at all likely in Afghanistan and 80 percent said the same about Iraq.

Roughly three out of four Americans polled think that in hindsight, each war will be deemed as an outright “complete failure” or “more of a failure than success.”

A majority of those polled, or 70 percent, said the United States was right to withdraw American troops from Iraq in 2011 and pull most U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by December. The two conflicts have consumed the nation for more than a decade and claimed the lives of 6,800 U.S. troops.

Nelson Philip, 73, of Oswego, Illinois, is of two minds. He judges the Afghan war a failure, but wants U.S. troops to stay in countries that remain in turmoil.

“What’s so successful about it? We didn’t do anything there. The Taliban. They’re still there. We haven’t done anything and now we’re pulling everybody out of there,” Philip said. “And now this Islamic group is over there taking over Iraq.”

The situations in Afghanistan and Iraq are distinct. But in each, the U.S. has spent more than a decade trying to set up democratic governments that could effectively police their own territories and stamp out threats to the American homeland. And in both countries that objective is in peril — their futures threatened by a combination of poor leadership, weak institutions, interethnic rivalry, insurgencies and extremist rebellions.

Americans surveyed in the poll think more bad news is on the horizon.

Fifty percent — up 18 points in the past seven months — think the situation in Afghanistan will get worse. Fifty-eight percent — up from 16 percent in December 2009 — expect conditions in Iraq will worsen. The poll was conducted shortly after Sunni extremists conducted an offensive that shattered security in Iraq.

The rapid advance by the extremist Islamic State group, which captured Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and overran much of northern and western Iraq, has plunged the country into its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of 2011.

Melody Fisher, a 58-year-old midwife from Prescott, Ariz., was among the roughly 25 percent who didn’t think it was time yet for American troops to return from Afghanistan, where about 2,340 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed. She said she wasn’t convinced that the U.S. had finished its work there.

“I used to work with refuges so I’m very aware of the conditions that people have to live in,” said Fisher, a midwife who spent time helping resettle Cambodian refugees. “Our country, our nation, has no idea about the day-to-day things that people have to go through in many places.”

People over 50 expressed far more pessimism about the ultimate outcome of the two conflicts than their younger counterparts.

Sixty-two percent of those over 50 said the situation in Afghanistan would get worse in the coming year, compared with 40 percent of younger Americans. On Iraq, that gap is even larger, with 72 percent age 50 or older expecting things to get worse compared with 47 percent of those under age 50.

Older Americans also are more likely to think the U.S. war in Afghanistan will be judged a failure in the future; 86 percent of those 50 or older feel that way, compared with 64 percent among those under age 50. They are also more likely to doubt that a stable democratic government will be established there; 88 percent age 50 or older say it’s unlikely to happen compared with 70 percent age 18 to 49.

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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Associated Press director of polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington contributed to this report.

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Online:

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