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





The Surprising Popularity of Trade

Results from the 2016 Chicago Council Survey reveal that international trade and globalization remain popular with the American public. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff

On Terrorism, Americans See No End in Sight

The June 10-27 Chicago Council Survey finds that the American public considers international terrorism to be the most critical threat facing the nation. In combating terrorism Americans say that almost all options should be on the table, yet a large majority expect that occasional acts of terror will be a part of life in the future.


| By Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura

Americans Support Limited Military Action in Syria

The 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted June 10-27, reveals that Americans across partisan lines support limited military actions in Syria that combine air strikes and the use of Special Operations Forces. There are deep partisan divides on accepting Syrian refugees, and widespread skepticism toward arming anti-government groups or negotiating a deal that would leave President Assad in power. 



| By Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff, Craig Kafura

Republicans Back Trump, but Not All of his Policies

If the general election were held today, a solid majority of Republicans (including self-described Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents) say they would vote for Mr. Trump in the presidential contest against Secretary Clinton. But Donald Trump was not the top choice for many Republicans among the full field of primary candidates. While eventually deciding to back Trump, those who were hoping for a different nominee are not endorsing some of Trump’s key positions.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Flare-ups in Taiwan-China Relations Here to Stay

The China-Taiwan relationship may be due for flare-ups in the coming years, and China's recent decision to suspend diplomatic contact with Taiwan could set the tone for the short-term direction of cross-strait relations. But polling suggests that the Taiwanese public prefers a pragmatic approach to relations with China, limiting the publicly palatable options facing Taiwan's President Tsai, Karl Friedhoff writes.


Nuclear Energy: Americans Favor Stagnation

How do Americans feel about nuclear energy? From Chernobyl to Homer Simpson, nuclear energy doesn’t have a stunning reputation, but until recently polls showed a majority of Americans favor its use for energy. In fact it appears that support for nuclear energy is linked with energy availability and that Americans would rather develop other energy sources.