American perceptions of China grow more negative as public blames it for COVID-19

November 30, 2020, 8:00 PM UTC

Most Americans blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll. Almost two-thirds believe China is responsible for the worldwide pandemic, including almost all Republicans, and 44% of Democrats.

Americans ascribed blame for the pandemic to China as early as a May Economist/YouGov Poll.  Then 66% said China’s handling of the pandemic lead to the outbreak and only 14% disagreed.

China’s overall image has been declining for some time. In the early months of President Trump’s term, about a third of the American public expressed the opinion that China was either an ally or a friendly country. Relations with China started to sour in mid-2018, following negative rhetoric from Donald Trump and the imposition of tariffs. By this point, only one in four were still expressing positive opinions about China.

This year, as the pandemic took hold, that perception dropped further still to just 17%. As of last month just 12% describe China as an ally or friend, with three-quarters calling it unfriendly or an enemy.

Republicans are much more likely to actively consider China an “enemy” of the United States than Democrats (at 47% vs 19%). That is not to say that Democrats have a particularly warm view of the Asian nation: 49% however label China an “unfriendly” country (as do 35% of Republicans). 

Can relations get better in a Biden Administration?  Maybe.  Slightly more say relations with China will get better with a Biden Presidency than think they will get worse.  But most see them either getting worse or not changing at all.

But like so many other opinions and expectations, this question is heavily influenced by politics.

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

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between November 21 - 24, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.2% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty