More than 70% of Americans hold unfavorable views toward China, a record disapproval rating as many fault Chinese authorities for failing to contain the coronavirus, according to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
The same survey found more than 3 of every 4 Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – believe the U.S. should try to promote human rights in China even at the cost of economic ties between the two countries.
The survey results released Thursday are based on telephone interviews of U.S. adults ages 18 and older between June and July.
The latest Pew report comes as the U.S. government, led by President Donald Trump, has toughened its stance toward Beijing and questions concerning China are emerging as key to the early November presidential election.
At the time, 64% of Americans said China has done a bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, with 78% of Americans placing “a great deal or fair amount” of the blame for the global coronavirus pandemic on China’s mishandling of the initial outbreak in Wuhan and subsequent spread of COVID-19.
Faith in Chinese leader Xi Jinping “to do the right thing in world affairs” has also deteriorated, according to the survey, with 77% saying they have either little or no confidence in Xi.
The question on Xi was first included in the Pew Research Center’s nationwide polling in 2014, Laura Silver, a senior researcher at the center and lead author of the report, told VOA in a phone interview.
In 2014, 28% of Americans said they had some or a lot of confidence in the Chinese leader but today, “that number has gone down 10 percentage points,” she said.
Americans appear divided on the question of whether it is more important to get tougher than to build a strong relationship with China on economic issues – 33% of Democrats versus 66% of Republicans favor “get tougher.”
But on human rights, there’s greater alignment with 70% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans saying the U.S. “should try to promote human rights in China, even if it harms economic relations with China.”
Americans ages 18 to 29, who have traditionally viewed China more favorably than their elders, now have a less positive perspective with more than 50% of them viewing China unfavorably, “for the first time,” Silver said.
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fact tank that takes no money from any government, the U.S. government included, started conducting surveys on Americans’ views toward China in 2005.
A graph detailing the trend over the past 15 years shows that until 2012, the majority of Americans surveyed viewed China favorably.
Negative opinions rose during the second Obama administration that began in January 2013 and lasted until January 2017.
Negative opinions flattened out during the first year of the Trump administration, then quickly rose starting in 2018.