HONG KONG — Citizens of China and Japan overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama to win a second term, according to an exclusive AFP-Ipsos poll which suggests Mitt Romney’s tough talk on the Asian powers could have dented his image.
The US elections may be a toss-up at home but the survey carried out by Ipsos Hong Kong found a whopping 86 percent of Japanese back the Democrat incumbent compared to only 12.3 percent for Republican party candidate Romney.
Chinese respondents were less emphatic, but still a hefty 63 percent said they wanted Obama to serve out another four years, according to the online poll conducted in September and October.
Analysts said Obama’s record on the economy and security had buttressed his standing in the East, while Romney’s outspoken comments on Beijing’s alleged currency manipulation and Japan’s economic decline may have lost him some friends.
“Asia wants Obama to win the election overall, but China has more supporters of Romney than Japan,” Ipsos Hong Kong associate director Andrew Lam said.
“It is possible that Romney’s strong stand on currency and trade, as well as his plan to have a stronger military capability in the Pacific, has led the Chinese to believe it is better to stay with the status quo.
“For Japan, Romney’s low popularity is possibly linked to his earlier public comment about Japan being an economy in decline. Japanese have strong national pride, and could react negatively toward this kind of public remark.”
The Chinese are around three times more likely to approve of Romney despite his more hawkish stance on trade and military spending, according to the AFP-Ipsos survey.
Romney’s popularity was highest among older Chinese and in less developed “Tier Two” cities, inland population centres which have not industrialised at the pace of the more economically liberal special economic zones such as Shanghai.
Romney has repeatedly vowed to brand Beijing a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office, as a way to address China’s huge trade surplus with the United States.
The AFP-Ipsos survey showed that most Japanese (81.8 percent) and Chinese (58.3 percent) thought Obama would be the best US president for Asian economic growth, rejecting Romney’s claims to be the stronger economic manager.
Asked which candidate would be better for peace and security in Asia, 85.3 percent of Japanese and 56.3 percent of Chinese said Obama.
Despite the high stakes involved, the poll showed many more Chinese (47.7 percent) are indifferent to the US election outcome than Japanese (30.3 percent).
Analysts said that with a once-a-decade leadership transition due to take place in Beijing shortly after the US vote, this was not surprising. There was also a sense of disappointment after the excitement of Obama’s 2008 victory.
“The election is the most important to the Japanese, possibly because the US has been their most important long-term ally diplomatically and militarily,” said Lam.
“With their rising political and economic power, the Chinese may regard themselves as less reliant on any single nation including the US, thus the indifference.”
Online survey: Australia: 1000 adults aged 18+ / China: 800 adults aged 18+ / Japan 1000 adults aged 20+
Data Tables available here