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Fewer in U.S. See Japan as an Economic Threat

Fewer in U.S. See Japan as an Economic Threat

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 24% say Japan is an economic threat, down from 77% in 1991
  • 64% have friendly feelings toward Japanese people
  • Most Americans still know what happened at Pearl Harbor

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and decades after Japan's economy grew exponentially following World War II, most Americans no longer consider Japan an economic threat to the U.S. Twenty-four percent of Americans say Japan is an economic threat, down sharply from 77% in 1991.

Americans' Perceptions of Japan as an Economic Threat
Do you consider Japan to be an economic threat to the United States today, or not?
  Yes No
  % %
November 2016 24 72
November 1991 77 20

The United States' relationship with Japan has come to the fore of public discussion leading up to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will honor this milestone by becoming the first Japanese leader to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii later this month.

After it surrendered to the Allied forces at the end of World War II, Japan rapidly became an economic powerhouse -- and by 1968 had become the second-largest economy in the world, behind the U.S.

Gallup first asked Americans if they considered Japan an economic threat in 1991. At the time, Japan was nearing the end of a long period of remarkable economic growth and about to enter what economists have called the "lost decade" -- an economic crash of sorts, occurring roughly from 1991 to 2000. Americans were still unaware of the effects of that crash 25 years ago and remained nervous about global competition from Japan. Today, however, China seems to have emerged as a bigger threat in Americans' minds.

More Americans Have Friendly Feelings Toward the Japanese

Along with a decline in their belief that Japan poses an economic threat, Americans have grown more likely to view the Japanese people positively. Currently, 64% of Americans say they have friendly feelings toward the Japanese people, with 33% saying they have neutral feelings and 2% professing unfriendly feelings. "Friendly feelings" are up by 12 percentage points since Gallup last asked this question in 1994, and up by 21 points since 1991.

Chart 2

Gallup asked a similar question twice in the decades prior to 1991. In 1953, a period of less intense economic competition, 56% said they had friendly feelings toward the Japanese. In 1949, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, 34% said they felt friendly toward Japan, with 27% saying they had unfriendly feelings.

Most Americans Remember Historical Events of Dec. 7

Although most Americans today were not alive on Dec. 7, 1941, the public is still widely aware of what happened at Pearl Harbor. When asked in an open-ended fashion to say what happened on that date relating to Pearl Harbor, 73% of Americans correctly cite the Japanese attack on the U.S. An additional 5% mention the "beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II." These percentages are almost identical to the last time this question was asked, just before the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in 1991.

Americans' Remembrance of Pearl Harbor
As you may know, this Dec. 7 marks the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Would you know specifically what happened 75 years ago, relating to Pearl Harbor? (Open-ended)
  November 2016 November 1991
  % %
Japanese attack on U.S./bombing of U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor 73 72
Beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II 5 5
Other 2 3
No opinion 20 20
Surveys conducted in 1991 used this phrase: "As you may know, this Dec. 7 marks the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor ...."

Bottom Line

Japanese Prime Minister Abe is making a historic visit to the memorial at Pearl Harbor on the 75th anniversary of his country's attack there, which follows President Barack Obama's historic visit this past May to the site of America's bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. With decades of temporal distance from the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans' feelings about the Japanese people are the most positive Gallup has recorded in five measurements since 1949. The chief reason for this may be the rapid growth of the Chinese economy at a time when Japan's growth has tapered off.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 28-29, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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