Asia Democracy Survey 2017Asian people uncertain a course of
their democracy, opinion survey shows

September 15, 2017

A recent opinion poll has revealed that people in five major Asian countries are becoming uncertain about how their democracy should develop. At a time when democratic values are being threatened in major Western countries, it appears that confidence in democracy itself is being maintained in the Asian countries surveyed, but an increasing number of people were doubtful about whether the democratic system is working in their countries, according to the results of the opinion poll. The survey also shows that confidence was weak among polled people about political parties and parliament as well as media organizations in their respective countries.

The opinion poll as a whole was organized by the non-profit, independent Japanese think tank The Genron NPO, but survey methods and other specifics differed from country to country. The surveys, carried out in Japan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and South Korea from June to August, covered men and women aged 17 or older through interviews or online questionnaires. The number of samples for each survey ranged from 1,000 to 2,600. Nearly half of those polled in Japan were pessimistic about the future of their country while about 60 percent of them replied that Japan's political parties cannot be trusted to solve the challenges facing the country.

⇒ See the full results here


  • Democracy around the world

    Optimistic views about the course of democracy in the world accounted for 40 percent of people polled in Japan. About half of those polled in Indonesia shared their optimism. But 26.6 percent of those polled in Japan and 36.8 percent of those in Indonesia were concerned that democracy in the world is in a critical situation or that it is difficult to improve the situation. Views were divided in Malaysia about the course of democracy in the world.

  • Is Democracy better than any other political system?

    The view that democracy is better than any other political system was supported by the largest percentage of people polled in the five countries: 45.7 percent in Japan, 60 percent in Indonesia and 61.6 percent in South Korea. But some people replied that non-democratic systems can be partially accepted or that any kind of political system is acceptable, and the percentage of people who selected these two replies grew from last year. The two replies were chosen by 44.9 percent of those polled in India. Comparable figures came to 22.0 percent in Japan, 30 percent in South Korea, 40.5 percent in Malaysia and 31.7 percent in Indonesia.

  • Is Democracy functioning?

    Only about 40 percent of people in Japan and Malaysia replied that democracy is working in their countries. Those who didn't think so came to 56.1 percent in Malaysia and 36.2 percent in Japan.

  • Trust in institution

    According to the survey, people in the Asian countries more strongly trust the ability of institutions, notably the military and police, than the parliament established through elections and political parties formed by elected politicians, or media organizations seen as playing a role in building sound public opinion. In Japan, the tri-service Self-Defense Forces, Japan's military, and the police force as well as the judicial and court system was favored by more than half of the polled people, but trust in political parties and the Diet, Japan's parliament, came to only about 20 percent.

  • Expectations on political parties

    The view that political parties cannot be trusted to solve the challenges facing the country was favored by 58.7 percent of those polled in Japan. This was far higher than the results in other countries surveyed. Those who believe that political parties in Japan can be trusted came only to 22.5 percent, compared to 46.8 percent in South Korea, 86.3 percent in Malaysia, 71.1 percent in Indonesia and 51.8 percent in India.

  • Views on the future of the country

    As many as 48 percent of people polled in Japan sounded pessimistic about the future of their country. Conversely, optimistic views were aired by 89.2 percent of people in Indonesia, 60.1 percent of those in India and 50.7 percent of those in Malaysia.

    Asked about reasons for the pessimistic views, 91 percent of those polled in Japan replied that there are no effective measures to deal with the country's fast-aging society and shrinking population. The figure grew from 84.7 percent a year earlier.

  • The need for strong political leadership

    People around the world tend to seek a strong political leader amid moves toward globalization and instability in the international order. But over half of those polled in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia replied that political leadership should be displayed while respecting the democratic process.

    According to responses to the survey in India, over half of those polled said that systems with some non-democratic features may be acceptable or that it is less important that the system is democratic. Those who favored the answer that a non-democratic leader may be acceptable if the challenges must be resolved grew from a year earlier. Those polled in Japan, India and Indonesia were asked which country should take the lead in protecting democracy in the world and the free international order, and 66.5 percent of people in India chose the United States from among eight countries listed, followed by 56.3 percent in Japan and 53.3 percent in Indonesia.

  • Global leadership

    Over 60 percent of those in Japan and India replied that they could not pin expectations on China maintaining the global order. Those who see China as trustworthy and those who see it differently both came to about 40 percent among people polled in Indonesia. Russia was favored as a global leader by about 10 percent of those polled in Japan. This compared to about 60 percent in India and about 50 percent in Indonesia.

    Britain was seen untrustworthy as a global leader by 51.5 percent of those in India, but the country was favored by 52.3 percent of those polled in Indonesia. Of those polled in Japan, 43.8 percent favored Germany, as against 29.5 percent for those with different views. Many of the people polled in the three countries in question replied that they could trust their country as a world leader. Specifically, the figure came to 48.6 percent in Japan, but this was far below the 71.3 percent in India and 90.3 percent in Indonesia.

⇒ See the full results here

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