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Press Release · September 5, 2001

Special Survey On U.S.-Japan Relations; Most Californians View Relations As Positive, Productive

Residents Divided Over U.S. Military Presence in Japan Majority Want Apology for WWII Crimes

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 5, 2001 – As the United States and Japan prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Californians are overwhelmingly favorable in their opinions about Japan, according to a survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). But reflecting the changing global dynamics of the post-cold war era, state residents say they most prize America’s economic ties to Japan and are evenly split over maintaining bases and troops in the Pacific Rim nation.

The large-scale public opinion survey of 2007 Californians finds that 74 percent have a favorable opinion of Japan, with two in three residents (65%) saying that Japan has had a major influence on U.S. culture and technology. Almost all residents (92%) agree that the relationship between the U.S. and Japan is important, and nearly six in 10 residents say the current state of relations between the two countries is either “good” (51%) or “excellent” (8%). Interestingly, more than half of Californians (57%) see economic issues, including trade and investment, as the most important issue in relations between the U.S. and Japan, followed by cooperation on global issues such as population and the environment (22%) and political issues such as security (15%). Those who see economic issues as most important are divided on the issue of maintaining or withdrawing troops in Japan (45% to 48%) – as are Californians overall (45% to 47%) – while those who see political and security issues as most important are most in favor of a military presence (54% to 41%).

“Californians have special ties, cultural and economic, to Japan,” says PPIC Statewide Survey Director Mark Baldassare. “They view the U.S.-Japan connection as critical, but they are seeking to redefine the relationship in ways that make sense in this new era of globalism.”

Other Key Findings

  • Fifty-two percent of Californians say that Japan should offer an official apology for war crimes committed during World War II, while 41 percent say they should not. Older Californians feel most strongly about this matter: By a 20-point margin (56% to 36%), residents 55 and older say Japan should apologize for war crimes.

  • A majority of state residents (59%) say that the U.S. should not offer an official apology for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while 36 percent say they should. Californians under age 35 are evenly divided on the question (48% to 47%), while those 55 and older overwhelmingly oppose a U.S. apology (73% to 21%).

  • Californians are slightly more likely to say that the relationship with China (43%) is more important to the U.S. than our relationship with Japan (40%). College graduates and those earning $80,000 or more annually are more likely to view China as most critical, while those with no college education and those earning under $40,000 per year place greater importance on Japan.

The survey on U.S.-Japan relations is a special edition of the PPIC Statewide Survey. For information on survey methodology, see page 22. PPIC is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to objective, nonpartisan research on economic, social, and political issues that affect Californians. The Institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.