2020 election, CCP Virus, China, climate change, coronavirus, COVID 19, cybersecurity, Democrats, environment, Gallup, human rights, Im-Politic, Jobs, Joe Biden, Pew Research Center, polls, public opinion, Republicans, tariffs, Trade, trade deficit, trade war, Trump, Wuhan virus
Monday I laid out the case that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has cheer-led every major Washington policy decision in recent decades that has enabled the rise of a wealthy, powerful, and worst of all, hostile and dangerous China. So it’s at least awfully interesting that the day after, a new poll was released making clear that the Trump campaign’s decision to brand the former Vice President as “soft on China” is not only on the mark substantively, but a smart political move.
The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows that Americans of all political stripes have turned into strong China critics. And especially important – there’s much more going on here than blaming Beijing for the CCP Virus outbreak. Respondents across-the-board now strongly agree that China poses a major threat to a wide range of U.S. interests – including on the trade front, where President Trump’s tariffs were widely reported to be devastating pretty much every major group of actors in the American economy, from businesses to consumers, and from farmers to manufacturers.
P.S. It’s not like Pew has ever itself shown any signs of being critical of China. Indeed, its introduction to the results includes this moral equivalence-friendly assessment: “…with the onset of an unprecedented pandemic, the stage has been set for both sides to cast aspersions on the other.”
The finding Pew emphasizes is a dramatic rise in unfavorable American views of China since Mr. Trump’s inauguration. When he entered office at the beginning of 2017 , the respondents Pew interviewed disapproved of China, but only by a narrow 47 percent to 44 percent margin. The most recent results show unfavorable ratings thumping favorable by 66 percent to 26 percent. The latest negative reviews garnered by Beijing, moreover, represent its worst such showing since Pew began asking the question in 2005.
And as Pew points out, looking at this divergence over time makes clear that China’s ratings began deteriorating long before the virus appeared. In fact, the sharpest increases in Beijing’s unfavorables and sharpest decreases in its favorables started in 2018 – when the administration began announcing and imposing steep levies on huge amounts of prospective imports from China.
Indeed, China’s image among Americans is now so bad that it’s shared among Democrats and Republicans alike. Frustratingly, the survey doesn’t measure the attitudes of declared political independents, but the latest figures show that 72 percent of Republicans and those “leaning” Republican hold unfavorable views of China, and that 62 percent of Democrats and their “leaners” agree. And both negatives are up sharply since the trade war began – or more accurately, since the United States started fighting back.
Not that trade is the only China-related concern expressed in the Pew survey, or even the strongest. Pew gauged U.S. opinion on several China-related issues, and the biggest worries were voiced over “China’s impact on the global environment.” Fully 91 percent of respondents labeled it as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem for the United States, the former responses hitting 61 percent. Next came “cyberattacks from China,” rated as problems by 8 percent of those surveyed, and as “very serious” problems by 57 percent.
Coming in third and fourth were the economic issues. Eighty five percent saw the U.S. trade deficit with China as a problem, including 49 percent calling it serious. And for “the loss of U.S. jobs to China,” the numbers came in at 85 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Interestingly, those latter results nearly matched those for the issue of “China’s growing military power” (84 percent and 49 percent, respectively).
Important to note, however, is evidence that, high as they are, the economic concerns have been leveling off in recent years, while the environmental concerns have been rising (along with those centered on human rights). That’s not necessarily great news for Mr. Trump, whose focus has been on the jobs and overall economy impact (along with the technological threat from China – which is a major source of public China-related concern).
Much better news for the President – Americans aged 50 and older (whose voter turnout rates have long been high) – hold the most negative views of China. Yet this year, Beijing’s image has turned negative for Americans in the 18-29 age class for the first time ever. And for both groups, disapproval of China surged starting in 2018.
Of course, China’s not the only issue on which Americans will be voting this fall. But the latest Gallup results, for example, show that virus-related issues have surged to the top of their rankings for the “most important problem facing the U.S.” If the President can link the virus with the overall China challenge in voters’ minds, his odds of reelection would seem to be pretty good. His biggest obstacle? Possibly the companion Gallup finding that right behind the virus on the list of national problems is “The government/poor leadership.”