international relations Japan-related research

JPOSS #34: “The Pretty Pragmatic Public: Japanese Public Opinion During the Afghanistan Evacuation”

The thirty-fourth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on December 15, 2022. Amy Catalinac (New York University) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Yusaku Horiuchi (Dartmouth College) presented a paper co-authored with Atsushi Tago (Waseda University) on Japanese public opinion toward the Self-Defense Force’s (SDF) involvement in military operations in accordance with the US-Japan alliance. Their study offers an empirical expansion of the US-centric public opinion literature to the context of Japan, a crucial case in light of geopolitical developments in the region. Responding specifically to the literature on civilian control and casualty sensitivity, the authors administer an online survey experiment to understand the applicability of existing theories to Japan. In order to circumvent the shortcomings of utilizing hypothetical scenarios in survey experiments, the authors conducted a “real-time” survey experiment using the real and concurrent case of the SDF evacuation mission in Afghanistan as the situation was unfolding in August 2021. Consistent with studies on US public opinion, the authors find that first, Japanese support for military operations decreases in response to the presence of casualties, and second, the survey results do not align with the expectations of civilian control. However, unlike the case of the US, casualty sensitivity in the Japanese case does not seem conditional on the success of military operations. The survey experiments covered in this paper are part of a larger series of survey experiments conducted by the authors to understand Japanese public opinion toward military operations, an area of research that has until recently been limited.

Shoko Kohama (Hokkaido University) and Jonathan Renshon (University of Wisconsin-Madison) offered insightful comments on the scope conditions, potential downsides to employing “real-time” survey vignettes, and alternative ways to frame the study. During the Q&A session, participants furthered discussion on the framing and theoretical contributions of the study.

This event attracted around 32 participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: