Polls conducted by NHK and Kyodo News in the aftermath of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “golf summit” with U.S. President Donald Trump showed that the Japanese public approved of the outcome of the summit. Although the summit left important questions about the direction of economic cooperation unanswered, to the extent that the summit eased the public’s concerns about the direction of the U.S.-Japan relationship under the new U.S. administration, it was an unqualified success.
Kyodo, for example, found that 70.2% of respondents said the summit was “good,” with only 19.5% disagreeing. A smaller but still sizeable majority—60.2%—said that Abe’s trip to Florida to golf with Trump was appropriate. Kyodo found that the outcomes of the summit largely met with public approval: 77.3% approved of the announcement that Article V of the U.S.-Japan mutual security treaty applies to the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands; 67.7% approved of the agreement to establish a new economic dialogue; and 60.2% said that it is good for Japan to cooperate to promote job creation in the U.S.
NHK recorded slightly less enthusiasm, although still high levels of approval overall: 13% greatly approved and 55% somewhat approved of the summit’s outcome, while 21% somewhat disapproved and only 6% completely disapproved. Similarly, 71% either greatly (31%) or somewhat (40%) approved of the Senkaku declaration, compared with only 21% somewhat (16%) or completely (5%) disapproving. NHK posed a different question about the new economic dialogue, asking whether the dialogue would be beneficial for Japan’s economy: 23% said it would be and only 6% said it would not, but the overwhelming majority (60%) said that they cannot say, a sensible response given that the details about the dialogue are still unclear.
The outcome of the summit likely gave Abe a slight bump in his approval ratings. In the NHK poll, it rose three points to 58%, while his disapproval rating fell six points to 23%. Meanwhile, his approval rating in Kyodo rose two points to 61.7%, although his disapproval rating was unchanged. The small bump in Abe’s support may have less to do with the impact of foreign policy on the government’s support—Abe’s competent handling of foreign policy likely factors into public approval—than with the likelihood that the prime minister’s support could be near its ceiling.