As COVID-19 has spread throughout the U.S., it appears to have impacted Americans’ views of China, the country where the virus originated, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Pew conducted the survey during the month of March, as many states issued stay-at-home orders to mitigate COVID-19’s spread. The survey found that 66 percent of Americans have unfavorable views of China, the highest since they began asking the question in 2005. The negative feelings have been on the rise since 2017 when President Trump began a trade war and other public feuds with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Researchers note that the negative views held steady throughout the month of March, even as the pandemic grew in the U.S. and impacted everything from the economy to entertainment. The organization is experienced in dealing with unexpected changes in national and international news while a survey is in the field. 

Negative views of China are higher among Republicans, at 72 percent, compared to 62 percent of self-identified Democrats. Additionally, 71 percent of Americans over age 50 reported negative views of China, compared to 53 percent of Americans age 18-29. Both trends are consistent with trends Pew has observed over the years of conducting this survey.

Views of Chinese President Xi Jinping also hit record lows in the March survey, with 71 percent of respondents saying they had no confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. 

The difference between 2019 and 2020 is stark, with the negative feelings increasing by 21 points. At least some of this growth is attributable to Jinping’s handling of COVID-19 and how it might have led to more cases in the U.S. in the pandemic’s early days. 

Putting COVID-19 aside, about 90 percent of Americans see China as a major threat to U.S. power and influence in the world, an increase of 14 percent since the question was last asked in 2018. In a country that is polarized on seemingly every topic, this appears to be one place where Republicans and Democrats are united. Again, older Americans are more concerned about this threat than younger Americans. 

Drilling down into specific concerns about China, 91 percent of respondents said they are most concerned with China’s impact on the environment, with 61 percent calling it a very serious threat. A recent study found that China is responsible for about 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. 

Other top concerns include cyberattacks (87 percent), the trade deficit (85 percent), job losses to China (84 percent), and the country’s growing military power (84 percent).

While many of these concerns cut across partisan lines, some notable gaps still exist. Republicans are more concerned about the trade deficit with China, a difference of 13 points over Democrats. Conversely, Democrats are more concerned about China’s impact on the environment, a 14 point split from Republicans. 


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