WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As China and the U.S. sparred over the disputed South China Sea at the ASEAN summit over the weekend, tensions continue to simmer between China and the Philippines as well over the resource-rich body of water. Despite strong commercial ties between the two nations, Filipinos' disapproval of China's leadership has soared since tensions began to flare up again in 2011.
In addition to the Scarborough Shoal dispute that began in early 2012, the Philippines and China are also continuing to spar over the Spratly Islands, which they both lay claim to. While long an area of disputed territorial claims, the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands have seen a number of confrontations between the Chinese Navy, Coast Guard and paramilitary maritime forces and the Philippines Navy. The Philippines government has sought international support for its claims against China through the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. China, on the other hand, insists it has undisputed sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, disapproval ratings of Chinese leadership among Filipinos now are about twice as high as they were only a few years ago. In 2010, 32% of Filipinos disapproved of China's leadership (and 25% notably had no opinion). Shortly after the Scarborough Shoal standoff began, disapproval surged to 57%, and edged higher and solidified in 2014 at 64%. Today, a similar 65% of Filipinos disapprove, 22% approve and 14% do not have an opinion.
Meanwhile, about as many Filipinos approve of U.S. leadership as disapprove of China's leadership. Nearly two in three Filipinos (64%) currently approve of U.S. leadership. The Philippines maintains long-standing ties to the U.S., despite the U.S. being forced to vacate Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base about 24 years ago. The U.S. has maintained a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines since 1951 and recently negotiated an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two nations.
As a result of internal and external threats, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III embarked on a military modernization effort shortly after taking office in 2010. This effort, along with military and government involvement in reconstruction after massive typhoons in the early 2010s, likely helped spur higher confidence in the military among the Filipino public.
However, term limits prevent Aquino from running for re-election in 2016. That means almost certain political disruption -- and possibly even more discord in future Philippines-Sino relations.
These data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Chris Stewart is a Partner at Gallup. Stewart previously served for more than 10 years as Regional Managing Partner of Gallup's Asia-Pacific region.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,001 adults in the Philippines, aged 15 and older, conducted May 2015. For results based on the total sample, the margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Surveys in other years were conducted with approximately 1,000 adults and the margin of sampling error was typically between ±3.6 and ±4.7 percentage points. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Dataset details.