A new opinion poll conducted by the Japanese government showed that the proportion of people who think the size of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) should be expanded hit a record high of more than 40 percent in 2022.
The latest results reflected increased public awareness of the severe security environment surrounding Japan in the face of North Korea’s unstoppable nuclear and missile development, China’s growing hegemonic military clout, and Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.
The Cabinet Office has tracked the public’s thoughts on the SDF’s every three years since 1969. The latest poll was undertaken from November 17 through December 25 last year to figure out the Japanese public’s views on the SDF and defense issues. Of the 3,000 adults aged 18 and older targeted in the mail survey, 1,602 people, or 53.4 percent, responded.
Regarding the size of the SDF, 53 percent said that the current level is fine, while 41.5 percent said that it should be reinforced. The latter is the highest figure since the government began asking that specific question in 1991, though the polling method has changed. The percentage of respondents who replied that the size should be expanded increased by more than 10 percentage points, from 29.1 percent giving the same response in the previous survey conducted in January 2018.
The percentage of respondents who said they were “interested” in the SDF increased by 10.4 points from the previous survey in 2018 to a total of 78.2 percent, another record high.
Asked about the role they expect the SDF to play, with multiple answers allowed, 88.3 percent of respondents mentioned “disaster-relief dispatch.” On the other hand, 78.3 percent answered “ensuring the security of the surrounding sea, air and airspace, and ensuring the security of the country, such as responding to attacks on islands.”
Asked about what kind of defense issues they are interested in, again with multiple answers allowed, “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development” was the top choice, given by 68.9 percent of respondents. That was followed by “Japan’s defense capabilities” (64 percent), “China’s military modernization and activities around Japan” (61.3 percent) and “Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and its impact” (52.1 percent).
When asked whether the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is useful for Japan’s peace and security, a record high of 89.7 percent said yes, while 9.1 percent said no.
In addition, when asked, “Considering the current world situation, do you think there is a danger that Japan will be involved in a war or become involved in a war?” 86.2 percent said yes, which is also a record high. Meanwhile, 12.8 percent said no.
Another notable finding is that when asked what perception they had of the SDF, 90.8 percent of all generations answered that they had a good impression. In particular, the young generation between the ages of 18 and 29 had the highest number, with 93.5 percent saying they had a positive impression.
Tokyo-based defense analyst Yoshihiro Inaba, age 27, pointed out that a main reason why young generations have a good impression of the SDF is that they saw the SDF members’ efforts in many disaster relief activities, including the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, in their teens.
“In recent years, there are also many TV dramas set in the SDF and TV variety shows featuring active SDF members. For this reason, the younger generation’s familiarity with the SDF seem to have been increasing,” Inaba said.