April 8, 2019 | By Karl Friedhoff

Elite-Public Gap on China May be Decreasing

I’ve written in this space previously about the elite-public gap on the perceived threat of China. In the past that gap was quite robust. The foreign policy elite widely view China as a threat and/or competitor, as does the Trump White House, but those views did not filter down to the wider public. Dan Drezner covered this most thoroughly in a piece for the Washington Post. New data from the Chicago Council suggests this gap is beginning to narrow.

In surveys conducted in 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2018 respondents were nearly evenly split in viewing the United States and China as either mostly partners or mostly rivals. The overall consistency from 2006 to 2018 is remarkable in itself. But in a Chicago Council survey conducted in early 2019, those numbers may be beginning to shift. Now, 63 percent identify the countries as mostly rivals versus 32 percent as mostly partners.

 

It is too early to say what is driving this shift, if it will continue, or how long it will endure. However, the timing certainly suggests that the sustained negative portrayals of China by the Trump administration and the media are beginning to have an effect. This may be an unwelcome development for US-China relations in the future. But for those studying the influence of elite messaging and the influence on the general public this will be an interesting data point to watch.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive

| By Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

Scholars vs the Public: Collapse of the INF Treaty

In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.

Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.



| By Craig Kafura

Expert Panel Survey: US Focus on the Denuclearization of North Korea

Despite expectations for the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, their recent summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts whether the United States should continue to focus primarily on denuclearization, or shift to arms control and non-proliferation.



| By Dina Smeltz

Opinion Landscape Not Ideal for New Mideast Peace Plan

At a Middle East conference this month in Warsaw, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast adviser, said that the administration will unveil its much-vaunted Middle East peace plan after the April 9 Israeli elections.


| By Karl Friedhoff

America the Dangerous

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on China, but has failed to convince the American public or many allies to follow suit. Instead, publics around the world now see the United States as a major threat.






| By Craig Kafura

2018: Year in Chicago Council Surveys

It's been a busy, eventful year around the world. Throughout 2018, the Council's polling team has captured public and opinion leader attitudes on some of the most pressing foreign policy issues, including US-Russia relations, American views of China, public support for internationalism and trade, and how the rising generation of Millennials think about American foreign policy.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Confidence in Congress Low

As the House becomes majority Democrat, there is low confidence among the American public for Congress--and several other institutions--to shape policies that benefit the United States.



| By Craig Kafura

Public Support for Foreign Aid Programs

Past surveys have found that Americans want to cut US spending on foreign assistance and dramatically overestimate how much the US spends on those programs. When asked to construct their own US budget in the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, Americans allocate far more than the US actually spends.