WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are scheduled to meet Friday in Washington, D.C., for what will be the first in-person visit by a foreign leader since Biden took office. Americans generally hold this key U.S. ally in high esteem; 84% had a very or mostly favorable view of the country in February, Gallup's most recent reading. Since 1996, majorities of Americans have viewed Japan favorably.
Line graph. Americans' views of Japan. 84% of Americans hold a very or mostly favorable view of Japan, little changed over the past 20 years.
Gallup annually asks Americans their views of a number of countries around the globe, and in 2021, Japan was the most positively rated Asian country in that list. Japan is, in general, one of the countries Americans view most positively, trailing only Canada, Great Britain and France this year.
For most of the post-World War II era through the 1980s, U.S.-Japanese relations were primarily characterized by U.S. efforts to contain communism and its commitment to defend Japan. However, in the 1980s, surging Japanese economic power brought the country into competition with the U.S. Gallup's first reading on Japan, in 1989, found 69% of Americans holding positive opinions. However, this rapidly declined to 48% by November 1991, as the U.S. struggled with a substantial recession. In a separate question Gallup asked that month, 77% of Americans identified Japan as an economic threat to the United States.
From 1991-1995, roughly half of Americans continued to express positive views of Japan. This may have been related to both continued concerns about the economic threat Japan posed and a series of policy disputes centered on continued U.S. military presence there.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton began an effort to reaffirm positive relations with Japan, including expanding defense cooperation to meet the growing threats in Asia. While this effort was underway, the percentage of Americans viewing Japan positively jumped to 65%. As the U.S. economy surged in the '90s, positivity toward Japan continued to rise, reaching 69% in 1999. Past U.S. worries about the Japanese economy also waned, and by 2016, 24% of Americans registered concern about the country as an economic threat.
Japan Is Broadly Popular Among All U.S. Key Demographic Groups
Positive views of Japan are shared by key U.S. demographic groups. This includes 84% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans and 86% of independents rating Japan favorably. While Americans at all levels of educational attainment express positive opinions about Japan, those with no more than a high school education (72%) are less likely to do so than those with some college education (87%) or a college degree (92%).
|Very/Mostly favorable||Very/Mostly unfavorable|
|HS grad or less||72||28|
|Gallup, Feb. 3-18, 2021|
Japanese Views of U.S. Leadership
As part of its World Poll, Gallup asks people around the globe, including in Japan, for their views of U.S. leadership -- rather than the country more generally.
Gallup has not yet asked the Japanese public about their approval of U.S. leadership since Biden took office. The historical trend shows that Japanese approval of U.S. leadership has fluctuated widely from one U.S. administration to the next.
In the first Gallup World Poll reading on the issue, in 2005, during the administration of then-President George W. Bush, 18% of the Japanese public approved of U.S. leadership. This rose modestly in 2007 and 2008, only to jump to 66% approval in 2009 following the election of Barack Obama. After that spike, Japanese approval of U.S. leadership declined to 51% in 2010 and fluctuated between 41% and 52% through the rest of Obama's term.
Japanese opinion of U.S. leadership was lower during the Donald Trump administration than during the Obama years, ranging from 31% to 39% approval, but was higher than during the Bush administration.
Line graph. The Japanese public's approval of U.S. leadership. Before the Biden administration, 39% of the Japanese public approved of U.S. leadership, while 38% disapproved.
The summit between Biden and Suga is a key early moment for the Biden administration. It will help set the tone for the president's foreign policy in Asia and potentially ensure continued cooperation from Japan in addressing the rapidly growing security challenges in the region. For Biden, Americans' broad, long-standing positive view of Japan primes the U.S. public to view the summit positively.
For Suga, the summit offers the opportunity, should he take it, to showcase his rapport with Biden, who may be viewed more positively by the Japanese people than Trump was. Suga's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, largely maintained cordial relations with Trump, unlike the leaders of some other U.S. allies. However, there were clear signs in the past four years of a weakening of ties between the U.S. and Japan. This summit offers the two relatively new leaders the opportunity to begin repairing the alliance between their two countries.