In case you hadn’t noticed from the ads, constant news coverage, debates, bumper stickers, Mortal Kombat spoofs, or any of the other indicators, it’s election year in the United States.

One thing that comes in abundance with election year is polls. So. Many. Polls. It seems like every other day there’s a new poll out, and each one contradicts the last.

Even though I thought I couldn’t stand to see another poll, one in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t a poll of likely, registered, or even undecided voters; hell, it wasn’t even a poll of US citizens. It was a poll about people abroad about how they view the US and Obama.

The news isn’t great for the US. The poll, done by the Pew Research Center, shows that most of the world thinks less of Obama and the US in general than they did even just a couple of years ago. The only holdouts are parts of Europe and Japan.

Why is Japan still holding on? Why do they love us so much?

The Good

Obviously, Japan and the US have had a special relationship for quite a long time at this point. Despite the two countries’ sometimes checkered past, the US and Japan have been close allies for the better part of a century.

The Japanese also dig American people, for the most part — 80% of Japanese people polled said that they had a favorable view of Americans. And even though I sometimes think that American culture is the lowest common denominator, 69% of Japanese people polled said that they enjoy US cultural exports.

Operation Tomodachi


But part of Japan’s continuing friendship has to do with US support following the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Despite all of the ignorant knuckleheads who said it was all somehow karmic payback for Pearl Harbor, the US was generally supportive of Japan in its time of need.

Here’s what Pew had to say:

In Japan, 72% currently express a favorable opinion of the U.S., up from 50% four years ago. America’s image in Japan improved dramatically in 2011, due in part to American relief efforts following the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Fully 85% of Japanese respondents expressed a positive view of the U.S. in last year’s poll.

The Bad

Not everything is all rainbows and sunshine between the US and Japan. The issue of US military bases in Okinawa is always lingering in the background, and there are plenty of other issues the Japanese disagree with the US about.


The Japanese overwhelmingly (75%) oppose unmanned drone strikes by the US, but it’s hard to come by somebody who actually supports them. Only 44% of Japanese favor how the US is fighting terrorism, but again, not a surprise considering modern Japan’s pacifism.

These issues aren’t all that surprising or even very new. What really got me curious was why do the Japanese still love Obama so much?

The ‘Bama

Obama has a lot going for him in Japan. Not only is his name easy to say in Japanese (オバマ!), but he shilled for the US, appearing in ads all over Japan.

Well, maybe not; but the Japanese still really dig Obama. 74% say that they have confidence in Obama as a leader, and 66% say that they want to see him re-elected in November.


Photo by Pete Souza

Why? It’s difficult to say. Pew doesn’t spell it out for us, so we can only speculate about why these respondents dig Obama so much. Is it his policies? His charm? His prowess on the basketball court?

Regardless of what it is that draws Japanese people to Obama, they fact is that they have a lot of confidence in him. In fact, during Obama’s presidency, at least 70% of Japanese people have said that they’re confidence in his leadership.

Pew hasn’t polled 小浜市, or the city of Obama, Japan, but judging how they reacted last time, I’d say that (Barack) Obama has Obama (city) in the bag.

Header image by Ramón Durán

  • zoomingjapan

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
    I get it a lot here in Japan that people think I’m American:
    “Do you have XY in America, too?”
    “How should I know? Never been there!”

    Just something very basic I noticed.
    Japanese people DO tend to throw all Westeners into the “American pot”. Not all of them do, of course.
    When I tell them that I’m originally from Germany I ALWAYS only get a super positive reaction.
    I think this is totally wrong and I feel it’s strange, but whatever.

  • William Sumners

    Do another one about what Japan thinks about the Great land of Britain, constituting Scotland, England and Wales.

  • Hashi

    Considering I still need a venn diagram to keep all of the terminology related to Britain straight, that would probably be a bad idea :P

  • Justin

    outside this california style cafe near where I live in sakuragichou (Yokohama), they have a life size model of Obama sitting on a bench so you can chill with him as you wait for a table. pretty cool :D lol

  • HorrorChan

    I would love to see a picture of this. xD

  • Mescale

    Don’t feel bad Hashi, I need an Entity Relationship Diagram to understand Venn Diagrams.

  • Name

    Can you give an address? That sounds so cool!

  • hjordisa

    I was surprised when someone decided I was from London when I went to Japan. I guess despite the assumption that foreigners are American I just don’t look like I am?


    Would I dare say they like President Obama because he is black and seems cool?

  • conpanbear

    I read an incredibly interesting article about Obama’s childhood and upbringing, and how it relates to his personality today. It said that, as he was raised in Indonesia, he acquired an “Asian level” of respect which might not necessarily developed to the same extent in the West, while still attaining a Western education upon returning to Hawaii. Also, growing up as a black kid in Indonesia during that time meant he got teased a lot, but the status quo in Indonesia is to take bullying with humour; if you react to it, it would be worse.

    His level-headedness and eloquence is impressive, and he inspires hope in many people during a particularly difficult time in America. Plus, he’s a politician who actually keeps his promises… unheard of!! I think that, due to all these qualities, Obama’s personality is easy to relate to, no matter your ethic background.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.

  • Emi

    I can’t understand the difficulty, then again, the U.K. is a pro at being awkward.

  • Jonathan Harston

    That’s why when I speak Japanese I try to speak with a Sheffield/Yorkshire accent ;)

  • zoomingjapan

    I have no idea. Did you go this year during the London Olympics? *g*

    You know I don’t get it anyways.
    I get to talk a lot to Japanese people I have never met before because I travel a lot.
    The conversation is the same almost every single time.

    Japanese: Where did you come from?
    Me: XY in XY Prefecture.
    Japanese: No, I mean before that?
    Me: Oh, before that I lived in XY Prefecture.
    Japanese: (O_O’) … No, I mean where were you born?

    They can’t believe that some of us might have been born in Japan.
    It’s not true for me, but I used to have a co-worker who was big, blonde hair, blue eyes. Both her parents were born in America, but she was born and raised in Japan.
    I bet she had that conversation way more often than I did.
    Must be very annoying :(

  • Zaywex

    Well, maybe Japanese people don’t know about Obama in general? I mean, the US might have a lot of influence, but the US and Japan are two different countries.

  • lychalis

    UK is Scots/Irish/Welsh/English whereas Britain is just plain old England I think

  • Hashi
  • koichi

    I think America is the only country where its people don’t know the leaders of the other main countries :(

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I wish I could live in a main country. We just get stuck playing extras.

  • Ken Seeroi

    Japanese people tend to have about as positive a view of the U.S. as people in the U.S. do of Japan, and for the same reason. Namely, that they know very little about it. To them, it’s just a foreign country.

    I’ve always been struck by how little Japanese people cared about the U.S. I frequently ask people here where they would like to visit overseas, and the answer is often Europe or Australia. Maybe a quarter of the responders put the U.S. as their first choice.

    I certainly wouldn’t say that Japanese people “dig” Americans or that they “love” you. If you walked around the U.S. and asked people if they had a positive impression of the British, you’d get a lot of affirmatives. That doesn’t mean they’re crazy about them, however.

  • Emi

    That’s a great diagram for those who have some knowledge of each country within the UK, as well as the Rep. of Ireland. =)

  • lychalis

    dammit *flail* and I’m british too – I SHOULD KNOW THIS I’M AN ABSOLUTE BOOK *pout*

  • nanashi

    I’m Japanese and I think almost 100% of Japanese people like every countries except the U.S, China and South and North Korea.
    We don’t say “no” without certain reasons to hate.

    And I don’t believe the numbers of this data says truth. We don’t love America.

  • TST

    Happens to Asian people all the time in America. You get used to it.

  • sedertery

    This is a terrible article. Does anyone really believe that they can understand the needlessly convoluted nature of the result of the past hundred years or so of cultural exchange between Japan and the US with Pew polls and the play-skool edition of international politics? The Japanese are Japanese and you cannot understand them as if they were portlandia hipsters or characters out of a Kurosawa flick. If you can’t understand that the Japanese are Japanese and unforgivingly Japanese then you’ll probably just be treated like an asshole because you don’t know any better. That’s probably the only reason I got an A in Japanese.

    Also, you know that “The Onion” is fake, right?

  • ff

    First it the United States, America is Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, etc. Secondly, why would you generalize all Americans like that? I’m an average American and I am very familiar with many world leaders, and would even call myself an amateur foreign policy analyst. Don’t judge a book by its cover, your just feeding into the negative stereotypes.

  • Madfoot713

    I know Cameron, Putin, Merkel, Jinping, and Abbot. Oh, and Harper. Maybe a few others but not off the top of my head. To be honest, I don’t think you need to know a lot of the others.

  • Takashi

    This poll is bs as a japanese ameri i can say the japanese people view blacks as bipedal monkeys for the most part. The fact that a nation as powerful as the us turn over their culture to these animals is sad. Also they let one lead them and let their daughters sleep with them and dont kick them out of the family shows that americas time on top is coming to an end.

  • Cerberus

    Thanks for spelling it out clearly. Japan does NOT “love” America. Nobody does.

  • Joshua

    I am African-American we are just as smart as any other race in the world we are just as intelligent and just as capable please not under estimate us we were slaves brought to the US.
    We work harder then most people we still suffer from races acts cruelty and we have. I know a lot of Japanese people my family spent 5 years in japan I my self as an African American has traveled all over the world and I’ve met at lest a few famous Nippon (japan) people and my family works for the us government. I get an all expense paid trip to travel.
    And I hold stock is some the the major USA companies and I own my own company. As a species all humans are technically animals we all technically evolved from apes and monkeys so you call us monkey but your are just calling yourself monkey as well as an animal.

    Just so you now I started my company with absolutely nothing as an no money and I’m just 24 years old

  • Joshua

    The USA is multicultural there is no specific culture. There is no primary language that we speak depending on where you live. If you never been to the us do not talk badly about it and don’t listen to the media because they are not telling you everything us media only highlight the bad stuff for ratings and it not even worth watching the news beyond watching the weather forecast. I can’t say any thing about Hollywood but there movie some times epic and just so you know most of the movies produced in the us are not made in Hollywood some of them arrant even made in the us.

  • Alvin York

    Are you kidding me? Obama is the worst US president in History. Keeping promises is not what Obama does. Like saying he would end the war in Afghanistan by 2014. Well its 2014 and we are still there. In fact we may still be there 10yrs from now. Obama promised he will go through congress and not use executive power like Bush but has yet again failed to keep that promise.

    This Idiot, has raised our debt more than all 43 previous presidents combined. On top of that him and his wife take $100 Million USD vacations while at the same time tells Lower class Americans we should stop using cell phones so we can afford government regulated Healthcare. Healthcare they call The Affordable care act.

    He cuts our military spending and sends them to fight a war (he said he would end) without proper equipment. The when those who survive come home they have their benefits promised to them cut or taken away for “Budget cuts” while Obama parties with Jay-z and Beyonce at Billionaire parties and gives Money to Illegal Immigrants.

    In short Obama is a lying Tyrant who has made joke out our country.