November 18, 1993

America Divides Over Asia

As Clinton Goes to Seattle

Report Summary

As with NAFTA, American opinion leaders and the American public have conflicting views about Asia. A plurality of opinion leaders believe Asia is now more important to the United States than Europe, a recent survey found, while the public (by a 50% to 31% margin) continues to see Europe as most important.

The choice of Asia by the Influentials was largely one of pocketbooks vs. hearts. Of those respondents selecting the Pacific Rim, more than three-fourths cited economic reasons. The public, in continuing to look to Europe, may not see the same economic opportunity as the Influentials; it believes by an overwhelming five to one margin (72% to 14%) that Japan has an unfair trade policy toward the United States.

The survey by the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press also found that the Influentials view the Asian region with most concern. No nation has replaced the former Soviet Union as the greatest danger to the United States, but the aggregated concern about the traditional nations of Asia was high. Those Influentials who specialize in security and defense issues considered it most dangerous to the United States, far more than the former Soviet Union or the Mideast.

Strong majorities or pluralities of almost all Influential groups would use U.S. troops to stop a North Korean invasion of South Korea, while most of the public would oppose it. Strong majorities in every Influential group would keep U.S. force levels in South Korea at current levels. Stronger sentiment was found for deep cuts in U.S. forces in Europe than in South Korea.

The survey of 649 opinion leaders in the nine groups — foreign affairs, security-defense, business, media, religion, science, state and local government, academia, and culture — was conducted in July and August, with two parallel public surveys in September and October. The results were released earlier this month in a report titled as America’s Place in the World.