Who should lead America? Japanese attitudes toward U.S. presidential elections reveal an intriguing gap between Japanese leaders and the Japanese public in their answer to this question. From the presidential election of 1984 to the present, Japanese leaders have, with few exceptions, preferred the Republican presidential nominee, whereas the Japanese public has often preferred the Democrat.

Regarding this year’s election, a public opinion poll conducted by Gallup and the Yomiuri Shimbun in November 2019 found that 76 percent of Japanese responded that “it would not be desirable for President Donald Trump to be re-elected in 2020.” Similarly, a Nikkei poll conducted in January found that 72 percent of Japanese would not like to see Trump re-elected, while only 18 percent said they would. An NHK poll conducted in February and March found that 57 percent of Japanese replied, “Re-electing Trump would have a more negative than positive impact on Japan” (only 10.3 percent answered that it would be more positive than negative).

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