Most Japanese Support Same-Sex Marriage, New Public Opinion Survey Finds
The initial set of results of the Stanford Japan Barometer, a new periodic public opinion survey co-developed by Stanford sociologist Kiyoteru Tsutsui and Dartmouth College political scientist Charles Crabtree, indicate that most Japanese are in favor of recognizing same-sex unions and reveal how framing can influence the public attitude toward LGBTQ communities.
View a Japanese version of this announcement.
The Japan Program at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) is pleased to announce the launch of the Stanford Japan Barometer, a periodic public opinion survey on political, economic, and social issues concerning contemporary Japan. The Stanford Japan Barometer consists of three parts: (1) questions about respondents’ demographic background; (2) a stable set of questions about support for policy issues, political parties, public institutions, and international entities; and (3) a thematically focused set of questions and experimental studies on topics of great relevance at the time of the survey. The survey is conducted with a national, quota-based sample of 8,000 Japanese residents.
The Stanford Japan Barometer is developed and led by Professor of Sociology Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and Senior Fellow in Japanese Studies at APARC and director of the Japan Program, and Charles Crabtree, an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and a former visiting assistant professor with the Japan Program.
For their initial survey conducted in late November 2022, Tsutsui and Crabtree used the third thematically focused component to examine issues related to gender and sexuality in Japanese politics today. In this component, they asked questions about same-sex marriage, a topic that has attracted a great deal of attention in recent weeks after one of the Executive Secretaries to the Prime Minister made discriminatory statements about same-sex couples and subsequently had to step down from his position.
The results from this part of the survey show that overall about 47.2% of the Japanese public support potential legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, roughly 15.8% oppose it, and approximately 36.9% neither support nor oppose it. Consistent with other recent surveys on this topic in Japan, stated support for same-sex marriage seems rather high with only 16% explicitly opposing it.
Later in this thematically focused section of the survey, Tsutsui and Crabtree examined how a range of common media frames might change people’s minds about same-sex marriage, adding prompts that made both supportive and opposing arguments about same-sex marriage. These arguments focused on several themes. In terms of tradition, the researchers presented some respondents with the view that the tradition in Japan is that marriage is a union between opposite sexes, others with the view that Japan has traditionally been tolerant of same-sex relations ever since the Sengoku era (16th century). Similarly, the researchers presented both pro and con arguments in terms of the impact of legalizing same-sex marriages on depopulation in Japan and the country’s international reputation, as well as the fairness of same-sex marriages from the point of view of constitutional rights and human rights principles.
The results show that respondents tend to become more supportive of same-sex marriage when they are presented with an argument that not allowing same-sex marriage is unfair from the point of view of human rights and gender equality. Based on these findings and the results of the first part of the survey, it seems that Japanese attitudes to same-sex marriage are relatively supportive and could be made even more supportive when human rights principles are mobilized.
In another section of this survey, Tsutsui and Crabtree fielded a set of experiments that provide perspective on how these seemingly egalitarian attitudes toward same-sex marriage play out in practice. Specifically, the researchers had respondents complete conjoint experiments aimed at better understanding what types of candidates the Japanese public is more likely to support for a Diet seat and an external corporate board member. In contrast to the results described above, the findings show that candidates in same-sex relations received less support (45% to 55% for the Diet and 43.5% to 56.5% for corporate board), revealing substantial discriminatory attitudes toward same-sex couples when it comes to giving them prominent public roles.
This preference appears driven by men, as women respondents exhibit no discrimination against same-sex couples in either context. It also appears driven by age: people over 70 only selected same-sex couples as a candidate for the Diet and board membership around 30% of the time, while those younger than 30 actually slightly prefer same-sex couple candidates.
In sum, the inaugural Stanford Japan Barometer reveals that the Japanese public generally supports same-sex marriage even though Japan is the only country among the G7 nations that does not legally recognize same-sex unions. However, some Japanese have reservations about people in same-sex relations occupying high-level public positions, revealing the limits of public acceptance of LGBTQ communities.
The survey also included questions and experimental components that unveil much about public support for women representation in the Diet and corporate boards, and about respondent attitudes toward couples keeping different last names after marriage. The researchers will share those results in subsequent press releases.
For media inquiries about the survey, please reach out to APARC Communications Manager Michael Breger: firstname.lastname@example.org. For inquiries in Japanese, contact Japan Program Coordinator Kana Igarashi Limpanukorn: email@example.com.