Two new nationally representative polls—one fielded in the United States by the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, and a second fielded by Japanese partner The Genron NPO in Japan—provide insight into what the American and Japanese publics are expecting from the upcoming U.S.–North Korea Summit in Singapore, as well as their opinions on broader Asian security issues.
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What do Americans and Japanese expect from the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? Of those polled, a small minority—22% of Americans and 6% of Japanese—expect significant progress toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; but a majority of Japanese (52%) and a plurality of Americans (36%) expect progress on some issues but not on denuclearization.
“While there is guarded optimism in Japan and the U.S. that some progress will be made in the summit, expectations are low especially in regard to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. This may give President Trump an opportunity to claim victory even with modest results,” said Professor Shibley Telhami, Director of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll.
Aside from their expectations about the summit, respondents in both countries were asked about what factors might be influencing North Korea’s stated willingness to negotiate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Americans and Japanese respondents were somewhat divided across the board on this: 38% of Americans and 26% of Japanese think it’s the tough line, including pressure and threats, taken by the Trump administration; 29% of Americans and 31% of Japanese think it’s because North Korea feels it has strong negotiating leverage after its success in developing and testing and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach American soil and directly threaten the U.S. and its allies; and 31% of Americans and 39% of Japanese say it’s the impact of UN sanctions and/or Chinese pressure.
As has been the case on many domestic and foreign policy issues, American respondents to the poll are deeply divided across party lines on this issue as well. While a majority of Republicans (61%) say that the tough line taken by the Trump administration is responsible for North Korea’s willingness to negotiate, only 16 percent of Democrats feel the same. And while 42% of Democrats say that North Korea’s success in developing and testing an ICBM is the most important factor, only 13% of Republicans agreed.
American opinion on world leaders, including those they admire and dislike, was also measured in this poll. When asked to name a world leader they dislike the most in an open-ended question, Donald Trump was named more frequently by respondents than any other leader with 32%, followed by Kim Jong-un (13%), and Vladimir Putin (9%). However, when asked to name two national or world leaders they think are posing the greatest threat to world peace and security in an open-ended question, Kim Jong-un leads the responses with 43% followed by Vladimir Putin in a close second with 42%; Trump came in third place with just 26%. Breaking that question down by party, we see that views of Donald Trump are greatly varied: Democrats view Trump as the greatest threat to world peace and security with 48% whereas only 3% of Republicans say the same.
When compared with the results of a November 2017 Critical Issues Poll, we see some changes in American views toward which countries they find the most threating to world peace and security. While North Korea is still seen as the top global threat by respondents at 53%, this is a decline from last November where 77% of American respondents listed North Korea as one of the top two threats. However, when American respondents were asked to name TWO countries that they believe pose the greatest threat to their country, Russia came in first with 50% followed by North Korea with 44%.
Looking at Japanese public opinion on this very question, there is one result that does not look good for Washington. In the joint poll that was conducted last November, Japanese respondents identified North Korea as the greatest threat to world peace and security (55%), followed by the U.S. (43%), and China (34%). However, in the most recent poll, the U.S. is now seen by respondents as the biggest threat (52%) followed by China (34%), and North Korea (30%).
On the other hand, when asked to name a national or world leader they admire most in an open-ended question, Republican respondents are most likely to say Donald Trump with 34%, followed by Benjamin Netanyahu with 8%. Democratic respondents list Barack Obama as the most admired leader with 30%, Justin Trudeau comes in second with 14%, and Angela Merkel places third with 10%. Among Independents, Queen Elizabeth II comes in first with 12% followed closely by Barack Obama with 11%; Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau tie for third place with just 6% each.
These results are from a larger UMD Critical Issues Poll conducted by principal investigators, Professor Shibley Telhami, Director, and Professor Stella Rouse, Associate Director. The poll looked at other issues including Middle East policy and trade. Further results from this poll will be released in the coming weeks.
Methodology (U.S.): The survey was carried out June 1-5, 2018 online from a nationally representative sample of Nielsen Scarborough’s probability-based panel, originally recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of adults provided by Survey Sampling International. The national sample was 1,215. Overall, the sample was adjusted to reflect population estimates (Scarborough USA+/Gallup) for adults 18 years of age or older. The survey variables balanced through weighting were: age by gender, race/ethnicity, household income, level of education, census regional division, and political party affiliation. The margin of error is 2.81%.
Methodology (Japan): The survey was carried out May 18 – June 3, 2018 in Japan. The sample is 1,000 among the target population of 18 years of age or older (excluding high school students). The survey was fielded in 50 regions of Japan, with 20 samples from each region collected based on a quota sampling method, which is assigned to match the composition ratio by sex and age nationwide. Placement method was used as the fielding method. The margin of error is 3.1% at 95% confidence level.