WASHINGTON, D.C. — A record-low 15% of Americans view China favorably, marking a five-percentage-point, one-year decline in this rating, which Gallup has measured since 1979. China has been gradually falling in the U.S. public’s esteem in recent years and is down a total of 38 points since 2018. More than eight in 10 U.S. adults have a negative opinion of China, including 45% who view it very unfavorably and 39% mostly unfavorably.
Gallup has tracked China’s image in the U.S. at least once a year since 1996 and, prior to that, measured it six times between 1979 and 1994. Favorability of China was highest in early 1989, at 72%, but it fell to 34% later that year in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square incident. From that point until 2017, China was viewed in a positive light by 33% to 50% of Americans. For just the third time in the trend, favorability rose to the majority level in 2018 (53%). However, it fell to 41% in 2019, 33% in 2020, and 20% in 2021 and 2022 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this year’s 15% rating, 20% was the lowest on record.
The latest data are from Gallup’s Feb. 1-23 annual World Affairs poll, during which tensions between the U.S. and China rose when Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a diplomatic trip after a Chinese surveillance balloon was discovered flying over the U.S. Toward the end of the poll’s field period, Blinken spoke publicly about U.S. concerns that China is considering providing weapons to Russia in its war against Ukraine. The poll was completed before FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency had concluded that COVID-19 likely came from a lab leak in Wuhan, China.
China’s favorable rating has fallen precipitously in recent years among Republicans, Democrats and independents alike and is now at its lowest point for each group. Republicans’ 6% rating is the lowest of the three, while Democrats’ and independents’ ratings are 17% and 18%, respectively.
Since 2007, Republicans’ views of China have remained lower than Democrats’, although favorable views have fallen steadily over the past five years among both parties.
For the past three years, majorities of Republicans have held a very unfavorable opinion of China, including 66% in the current survey, while Democrats’ negative views have been more split in their intensity. Currently, 44% of Democrats have a mostly and 38% a very unfavorable opinion.
China Largely Viewed as Critical Threat Economically and Militarily
In addition to holding a largely unfavorable opinion of China, more Americans name China as the United States’ greatest enemy than any other nation by a wide margin. This view is closely linked to two other measures in the poll, which find that Americans broadly believe China’s military and economic powers represent a “critical threat” to the United States’ vital interests in the next decade.
Americans’ assessment of China’s military power has been measured seven times since 2004. Currently, 66% of U.S. adults consider it to be a critical threat to the vital interests of the U.S., while 27% think it is an important but not critical threat and 6% say it is not an important threat. The share of Americans who think China’s military is a critical threat remains high; before last year, it had never exceeded 51%.
Gallup first asked about China’s economic power in 2013, and aside from readings between 2015 and 2019, when Americans were more positive about the U.S. economy, majorities have rated it as a critical threat. The latest reading is up seven points since last year and may reflect economic hardships brought on by persistently high inflation in the U.S. At the same time, 30% say China’s economic power is an important but not critical threat, and 6% say it is not an important threat at all.
Although majorities of Republicans (80%), Democrats (55%) and independents (65%) view China’s military power as a critical threat to the U.S., Republicans are by far the most likely to see it as such.
The percentages of Republicans (81%) and independents (63%) who think China’s economic power is a critical U.S. threat are nearly identical to each group’s views of China’s military power. However, Democrats are slightly less likely to consider China’s economy as a threat (49%) than its military.
More Americans See Taiwan-China Conflict as Threat; Taiwan Viewed Favorably
Tensions between China and Taiwan have been heating up in recent months, and Americans’ loyalty is clearly with the Taiwanese.
More than three-quarters of U.S. adults, 77%, have a favorable opinion of the small, democratically ruled island off the coast of China. This rating is the highest of the eight readings Gallup has taken since 1996 and is five points higher than the previous one in 2021. The Trump and Biden administrations have increasingly deepened the United States’ relationship with Taiwan. In August, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, angering China and sparking increased hostility against Taiwan and the U.S. The latest survey was completed before the U.S. announced it would sell more than $600 million worth of arms to Taiwan to support its defense capabilities.
Majorities of Republicans (78%), Democrats (81%) and independents (75%) have a positive view of Taiwan.
Meanwhile, 47% of Americans say the conflict between China and Taiwan is a critical threat to the United States’ vital interests in the next decade, a trend high. Another 42% rate it as an important but not critical threat, and 10% consider it not important. In the previous two readings, in 2004 and 2021, 23% and 30% of U.S. adults, respectively, said the China-Taiwan conflict was a critical threat, while slim majorities said it was an important but not critical threat.
This year, 59% of Republicans — but fewer Democrats (42%) and independents (44%) — consider the China-Taiwan situation to be a critical threat.
Americans’ opinion of China has been worsening since 2018, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world, and it has now reached a new low in Gallup’s trend of more than four decades. Growing friction between China and the U.S. in the past few years has resulted in sharp upticks in the percentages of Americans who consider China’s military and economic powers to represent critical threats to U.S. interests, with the public making little distinction between the two types of threats. At the same time, Americans view Taiwan more favorably than ever before, as they rate the conflict between China and Taiwan as more of a threat to the U.S. than in the past.
Republicans are particularly critical of China. They overwhelmingly name it as the United States’ greatest enemy and are more likely than Democrats and independents to consider its military and economic powers to be threats to the U.S.
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