What Do the Japanese Think of the US? Hamburgers. Hot Dogs. Obesity.

    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.

    US Navy personnel assisting a victim of the 3/11 Earthquake
    Source: DVIDSHUB

    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.

    Predator UAV on display
    Source: doctress neutopia

    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 (obama 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.

    US President Barack Obama talking on the phone
    Source: 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 much they love our president Obama, I’d say that (Barack) Obama has Obama (city) in the bag.