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As the United States pushes for trade negotiations with Japan, a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs finds that a majority of Americans across party lines believe the United States’ relationship with Japan is important to the US economy and security.

The report, “As China Rises, Americans Seek Closer Ties with Japan,” also finds that support for US military bases in Japan is at an all-time recorded high, with majorities across all political parties. And a growing majority of Americans say the US should place a higher priority on building strong relations with traditional Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea, even if this diminishes US relations with China– one of the few issues where the gap between Democrats and Republicans narrowed in the 2018 survey.

Key findings from the survey report include:

  • Americans view the US-Japan relationship as an important one for the US economy (91%) and for US security (79%).
  • Across the political spectrum, Americans prefer closer ties with traditional allies such as Japan and South Korea (66%), even if doing so diminishes US relations with China.
  • Public support for US bases in Japan is at an all-time recorded high of 65 percent, with majority support among Republicans (72%), Democrats (65%), and Independents (61%).
  • The American public supports defending Japan against North Korean attack (64% favor) but does not support involving US troops in a Japan-China conflict over disputed islands (41% favor).
  • Americans’ rating of Japan’s global influence has declined, going from 6.6 in 2002 to 5.7 in 2018 (mean rating on a 0-10 scale).

The report also contains results from the 2018 Chicago Council-University of Texas Opinion Leaders Survey. Key findings from this unique survey of 588 foreign policy opinion leaders include:

  • Majorities of Republican (89%) and Independent (75%) leaders—and a narrow majority of Democratic leaders (54%)—support using US troops if China initiates a military conflict with Japan over disputed islands
  • Large majorities of Republican (86%), Democratic (83%), and Independent (75%) leaders support having long-term US military bases in Japan
  • American foreign policy opinion leaders hold Japanese Prime Minister Abe in high esteem, with large majorities of Democrats (77%) and Independents (84%)—and an overwhelming 97 percent of Republican leaders—holding a favorable view.

For more findings, graphics, and methodology, download the full report here.


The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2018 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2018 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel July 12-31, 2018 among a weighted national sample of 2,046 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.37, including a design effect of 1.1954. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

The 2018 Chicago Council-University of Texas Opinion Leaders Survey was conducted August 2 to October 16, 2018 among 588 foreign policy opinion leaders from executive branch agencies, Congress, academia, think tanks, the media, interest groups and NGOs, religious institutions, labor unions and business. To more closely reflect the composition of previous Chicago Council opinion leader surveys, these data have been weighted by target sample group to reflect the proportional representation of leader groupings within previous leader samples.

The 2018 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the US-Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.