Americans think tariffs will lead to trade war

April 02, 2018, 5:00 PM GMT+0

74% of Americans think it’s likely that China will retaliate against the US for imposing tariffs

China is a serious but not necessarily immediate economic threat to the United States, according to a majority of Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. By more than two to one, the public thinks China has an unfair trade policy with the US But Americans have mixed feelings about the latest tariffs ordered by President Trump against China, as many believe the Chinese will retaliate, and the result will be that the tariffs are more likely to hurt the US economy than to help it.

The Trump Chinese tariffs get support in principle from a third of the public, while about the same percentage oppose them. Republicans support the tariffs 62% to 18%, while Democrats oppose them by almost the exact same margin (62% to 17%). But few doubt that there will be retaliation from China, or that there will be a trade war between the two countries. China has threatened retaliatory tariffs, but so far has not imposed any.

Few see a value in a trade war: three times as many say it would be a bad thing as think it would be positive. Even Republicans, who overwhelmingly support the tariffs, are divided on whether a trade war is good or bad.

Republicans are more likely to believe a trade war would hurt China more than the US, but that’s not a majority position. Overall, Americans think the US would suffer more.

There is some support for free trade in the poll: although Americans are divided on the value of free trade agreements like NAFTA, they favor having the government negotiate more deals like it by 40% to 27%. Even Republicans are more in favor than opposed to this (42% to 32%), but those who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 disagree. 37% of Trump voters say they would like more free trade agreements, but 42% would not.

Just as they said after the announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum a few weeks ago, many think tariffs will hurt the United States economy, not help it. That is true about tariffs in general as well as about the tariffs on Chinese goods.

Read more topline and table results here

Photo: Getty