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As China Rises, Americans Seek Closer Ties with Japan

RESEARCH Report by Craig Kafura and Karl Friedhoff
Flags outside of NATO Headquarters

While the American public is hesitant to get involved in a conflict between China and Japan, Americans across party lines want to build strong relations with US allies in Asia.

Key Findings

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 (66%), even if doing so diminishes US relations with China. This is one of the few issues where the gap between Republicans and Democrats narrowed in the 2018 survey.

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).

About the Authors
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
Marshall M. Bouton Fellow for Asia Studies
Council expert Karl Friedhoff
Karl Friedhoff was a Korea Foundation-Mansfield Foundation US-Korea Nexus Scholar and a member of the Mansfield Foundation’s Trilateral Working Group prior to joining the Council. Previously, he was a program officer in the Public Opinion Studies Program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies based in Seoul, South Korea.
Council expert Karl Friedhoff