Although seven in 10 Americans view Japan as a threat and would support protectionist trade measures, half also believe Japan is being blamed unfairly for a trade crisis that is of the United States' own making, according to the Los Angeles Times Poll.
The findings reflect mixed, and sometimes sharply contradictory, attitudes toward Japan at a time when rhetoric is heating up over the troubled bilateral economic relationship. Japanese leaders made a series of pejorative remarks about the American work ethic last month, escalating tension and striking a raw nerve in the recession-weary public.
The nationwide telephone survey of 1,776 adults between Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 suggests that instead of mounting into a "Japan-bashing" backlash, the public's frustrations are being held in check by a recognition of America's own shortcomings and responsibilities, said John Brennan, director of the Times Poll.
"This is what holds back the public from becoming massively anti-Japanese, the sense that we have nobody to blame but ourselves," he said.
Seventy percent said it should be U.S. policy to "restrict foreign imports in order to protect jobs and domestic industries," roughly the same level found in a series of Times polls over the past decade.
But when asked if they thought "Japan is being blamed unfairly for a trade crisis that is really the fault of the United States," 50 percent said yes, a sharp rise from the 35 percent who expressed that opinion in 1985.