American opinion of China at lowest levels in recent years

May 01, 2020, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Americans have never been particularly fond of China. The communist country has been seen by many as an enemy or at the very least as a nation that is not friendly toward the United States. But the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world has made Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll even more suspicious of the country where it originated.

More than a quarter of adults (27%) view China as an enemy, the highest percentage since the start of the Trump administration, and just about double the percentage who felt that way at its beginning in February 2017. The share that views China as an enemy has been creeping upward since January, as the pandemic’s devastating effects grew.

Republicans have consistently been more negative than Democrats toward China, but they are now particularly likely to see China as an enemy of the nation. In this week’s poll, about two in five Republicans (42%) called China an enemy compared to 17 percent of Democrats.

Amid the COVID-19 spread, racism against Asian Americans has reportedly surged, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. In an Economist/YouGov Poll conducted in March, one in five Americans admitted using terms like “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” to describe the coronavirus, and two-thirds blamed China for the virus.

Now, nearly half the public believes an unlikely theory that COVID-19 did not emerge naturally but was created in a lab. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in April that despite the “rumor and speculation” that the coronavirus was being developed as a bio-weapon by China that “the weight of evidence seems to indicate [that the virus had] natural” origins.

Less than a third of Democrats believe the statement that the virus was lab-created is definitely or probably true, compared with two-thirds of Republicans. Opinion on this question is linked to the view of China as an enemy. Four in ten who believe the virus was lab-created call China an enemy. Fewer than one in five of those who don’t believe that is true designate China as an enemy country.

But, those who find the claim of lab creation false still don’t like China. They are most likely to see China as unfriendly, though not as an outright enemy. Just about the same low percentage in each group view China as an ally or a friend.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Related: Most Americans have not heard of Remdesivir, the experimental COVID-19 drug

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