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Home > Special Topics > Social Trends Last Updated: 15:18 03/09/2007
Social Trends #28: February 24, 2003

Japanese Anti-War Sentiment on Iraq in Accord with Global Opinion

J. Sean Curtin (Professor, Japanese Red Cross University)

Over the past few decades, the Japanese have often seemed an outlier from global public opinion trends. On many occasions Japanese attitudes have been at odds with those found in the majority of other industrially advanced countries. Many domestic observers have attributed this characteristic to the supposed unique nature of Japanese society, while foreign commentators normally interpret it in terms of the nation having a narrow parochial worldview. Yet, on the question of a United States-led war against Iraq, Japanese opinion is broadly in sync with that recorded in most countries around the world, except for the United States.

While Europe's leaders are bitterly divided on whether they should support President Bush on the looming war with Iraq, opinion polls indicate that the vast majority of ordinary citizens across the entire continent of Europe are united in their opposition to war. As the prospect of conflict with Iraq grows ever closer, anti-war sentiment in Japan is surprisingly in-step with worldwide public opinion. Not even in Israel, the closest ally of the United States, is there majority support for a war with Iraq. From Tokyo to Toronto, from Osaka to Oslo, opinion surveys suggest that without a second U.N. resolution, most Europeans, Japanese and other nationalities are overwhelmingly against military action. Furthermore, even if there is a second resolution many Europeans and Japanese still oppose war.

A number of commentators believe that the new American pre-emptive strike policy of President Bush is behind the massive worldwide opposition to a war on Iraq. A 22 February public forum for Britain's Channel 4 News found 56% of a representative national sample of Britons were against the U.S. pre-emptive strike policy because they thought it was imperialistic.

According to a February 2003 Kyodo News survey, 78.7% of Japanese oppose a U.S.-led military attack on Iraq with just 15.5% supporting it. 48.5% of respondents said that the Japanese government should not support a military strike, while 20.9% thought the government should support military action. The remarkable similarity between Japanese opinion and that found in most other countries can been clearly seen by comparing the international poll data below. For once, Japan seems to be in-step with the global community. Maybe this convergence is only temporary, or maybe it is a sign that Japan is at last becoming a true part of the global community.

International Opinions on the Iraq Crisis

According to a Gallup Poll survey conducted between 17 to 19 February, 57% of Americans were in favour of invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power. 38% were against war and 5% did not have an opinion.

A CSA Institute poll published on 23 January showed 73% of the French were against a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. A February newspaper poll indicated that more than 80% of people in France supported President Jacques Chirac's anti-war stance.

A Turkish public opinion survey by the ANAR polling institute published in early January showed 87% of Turks oppose a military operation against Iraq. Furthermore, 62.8% believe Turkey should not get involved in a war if it occurs, either directly or indirectly by making bases available to the United States.

A January poll by the El Mundo newspaper found 80% of Spaniards opposed the U.S. stance towards war with Iraq and another conducted in January by a radio station showed only 6.6% thought there were sufficient reasons to go to war. On 15 February, over 2 million Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona to oppose a war with Iraq.

Polls vary depending on the media outlet, but somewhere in the region of 70% to 80% of Italians oppose war with Iraq. According the BBC, a 29 January poll by Swg showed 72.7 % of Italians disagreed with a U.S.-led pre-emptive war against Iraq while 18.8% said they would support such an action. According to the Guardian newspaper, a February poll shows 70% of Italians would object to an attack even if it was authorized by the U.N..

United Kingdom
According to a 13 February opinion survey conducted by the BBC, 91% of British people would not back a war with Iraq without a second U.N. resolution. Furthermore, 45% of British people believe the U.K. should play no part in a war with Iraq whatever the U.N. decides. According to the February Guardian/ICM poll, 52% of British people oppose war, while 29% of people support it. This poll also showed that Prime Minister Tony Blair has sustained significant political damage due to his support for President Bush's Iraq policy. Blair's personal approval rating has crashed to minus 20 points.

A 25 January poll by Vilstrup Research showed 79% of Danes oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq without a U.N. mandate. The same survey showed 57% would still oppose a war if there was a U.N. mandate.

A Canadian Sun poll published on 20 February found 66% of Canadians believe Canada should not support a U.S. invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval. Only 26 per cent of respondents would support unilateral American action in Iraq. A 28 January CHBC News poll also found 33.70% of Canadians stating that they were against war even if it were approved by the U.N.. The same poll also found that 61.64% of Canadians thought the United States was the greatest danger to world peace.

A January opinion survey by Germany's Forsa institute found 69% of Germans wanted the country to vote against any U.N. resolution mandating war against Iraq. An opinion survey that appeared in the popular Der Spiegel news magazine showed 72% of Germans were against any German military involvement in the war.

According to the British Guardian newspaper, a 3 February Australian poll shows that three-quarters of Australians declared themselves against a war in Iraq without United Nations backing. 40% said they would oppose it even with U.N approval. According to a February Newspoll survey, only 18% of Australians support their military's involvement in a war against Iraq without a mandate from the U.N. Security Council. With the Security Council's backing, 57% of Australians would approve troop deployments during war.

Israeli public opinion is not convinced that a war with Iraq is needed. A 13 February Haaretz Newspaper poll shows that only 46% of Israelis support waging war against Iraq without a second U.N. resolution, and 43% oppose such an action. Of those 43% of the Israelis who oppose unilateral action, 20% oppose a U.S. attack against Iraq under any circumstances.

A Gallup poll dated 27 January showed 82% of Hungarians opposed military action under any circumstances. Of the 18% who would support a war, the majority said this was dependent on it being approved by the United Nations.

Czech Republic
A 30 January poll by the CVVM agency of the Czech Republic indicated that 67% of people were against a war with Iraq and only 24% of Czechs were in favour of such a move. Half of those who support a war would only do so if there was a second U.N. resolution.

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