Japan Data

Pew Survey Sheds Light on Regional Sentiment in Asia-Pacific


In September, the Pew Research Center released the finding of its 2015 Global Attitudes Survey exposing a discrepancy in how Japan is viewed by its Asia-Pacific neighbors. While only 12% in China and 25% in South Korea saw Japan favorably, over 70% of other countries in the region had a positive view.

Lingering Mistrust

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, US-based organization studying public opinion and other trends around the world, conducted a survey titled How Asia-Pacific Publics See Each Other and Their National Leaders from April to May of this year, polling 15,313 people from 10 countries in the region.

Percentage of Populace with Favorable Views of Other Asia-Pacific Nations

Views of ► Japan China India South Korea
Malaysia 84 78 45 61
Vietnam 82 19 66 82
Philippines 81 54 48 68
Australia 80 57 58 61
Indonesia 71 63 51 42
Pakistan 48 82 16 15
India 46 41 - 28
South Korea 26 61 64 -
China 12 - 24 47
Japan - 9 63 21
Median 71 57 51 47

Source: Pew Research Center, 2015 Spring Global Attitudes Survey

Positive sentiment among Asia-Pacific neighbors was relatively high overall, with Japan being seen most favorably (71%), followed by China (57%), India (51%), and South Korea (47%). However, the center pointed to persisting tensions stemming from conflicting views of history and recent territorial disputes as negatively impacting views among certain countries. These issues weighed down support for Japan in China and South Korea, while conversely, ongoing friction over maritime claims dampened public approval for China among populaces in Japan and Vietnam, which stood at 9% and 19%, respectively.

The center also polled public confidence in the region toward the ability of leaders of Japan, China, and India to correctly handle international issues. Malaysia and the Philippines had a high level of approval for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. Confidence for Xi was also marked in South Korea and Pakistan, while Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoyed strong support in Australia and Vietnam.

Percentage of Asia-Pacific Publics Confident in Xi, Abe, and Modi

Xi Jinping Abe Shinzō Narendra Modi
Malaysia 72 73 34
South Korea 67 7 39
Pakistan 59 34 7
Philippines 51 68 44
Australia 47 60 51
Indonesia 40 43 28
India 29 36 -
Vietnam 20 68 56
Japan 12 - 47
China - 18 29
Median 47 43 39

Source: Pew Research Center, 2015 Spring Global Attitudes Survey

In East Asia, public confidence in the ability of leaders of neighboring countries to make correct decision regarding world affairs was mixed. Only 12% of the Japanese populace had a positive view of Xi compared with 67% of South Koreans; the public approval of Abe was 18% in China and a mere 7% in South Korea.

Mending Bridges?

A separate survey conducted jointly by newspapers in China and South Korea also found conspicuously negative views of Japan in those countries. From July to August, China’s Global Times and South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper asked 1,000 people in both countries if they had negative feelings toward Japan, with 55.9% of respondents in China and 33.1% in South Korea answering that they did.

Recently, Japan-based organization Genron NPO conducted its eleventh Japan-China joint opinion poll gauging public sentiment in the two countries. The survey sampled views of 1,000 people in Japan from September 4 to 28, and 1,570 people across 10 Chinese cities from August 21 to September 7. While 88.8% of Japanese respondents said they held an unfavorable view of China, the results were a slight improvement from the 93.0% seen the previous year. Of the Chinese polled, 78.3% said they had a negative view of Japan. This, too, was lower than the 86.8% in 2013, when bilateral tensions were at their peak, hinting that relationships between the East Asian neighbors are gradually improving.

(Originally written in Japanese by Murakami Naohisa of the Nippon.com editorial department and published on November 4, 2015. Banner photo: From left, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang join hands on November 2, 2015, during a trilateral summit at the Blue House presidential office in Seoul. © Jiji)

Japan China Asia-Pacific South Korea opinion poll Pew Research Center