April 9, 2015

How Americans and Japanese see each other

Public views of other nationalities are often rooted in stereotypes. These perceived characteristics may or may not be fair or accurate. But they capture a public perception that may help explain national attitudes on a range of other topics.

As part of our recent survey of the relationship of Japanese and Americans, we asked the publics in both countries if they associated particular words with people in the other country.

To Americans, the Japanese are generally viewed in a positive light: Words like “hardworking,” “inventive” and “honest” are what American use to describe them. In fact, more than nine-in-ten Americans say they associate “hardworking” with the Japanese. 

Most Americans do not ascribe various negative stereotypes to the Japanese. Only 36% see the Japanese as “intolerant,” 31% see them as “aggressive” and just 19% associate them with the term “selfish.”

The Japanese offer a more mixed assessment of Americans, however. They see Americans as “inventive” but also “aggressive.” And relatively few think of Americans as hardworking and honest.

Two-thirds of Japanese see Americans as “inventive,” with younger Japanese (76%), those ages 18 to 29, more likely to say this than their elders (53%), ages 65 and older. But only 37% of Japanese associate honesty with Americans, and only a quarter voice the view that Americans are hardworking. Older Japanese seem particularly critical of Americans in these regards: Just 20% see Americans as hardworking, and 34% associate them with honesty.

Topics: Asia and the Pacific, Country Image, Social Values

  1. Photo of Bruce Stokes

    is director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center.