Americans Are More Concerned About China Than Other Adversaries

A majority of voters see increased military tensions with China as possible over the next year
A billboard showing Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen as a bus carrying journalists arrives at the China Manned Space Agency before a pre-launch news conference on Oct. 14. A new poll shows U.S. voters are more concerned about military conflict with China than with North Korea, Iran or Russia. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
November 15, 2021 at 5:16 pm UTC

Russia, North Korea and Iran aren't likely to warm to the West anytime soon. But according to a new Morning Consult survey, voters in the United States are most worried about China.

On the numbers

  • Among all voters, 78 percent are concerned about military tensions between the United States and China, including 46 percent who say they’re very concerned. Both figures are higher than the shares who say the same about Russia, North Korea and Iran.
  • Three in 5 GOP voters (61 percent) are very worried about military tensions between Washington and Beijing, compared with 37 percent of Democrats. This marks the biggest partisan gap in voter sentiment regarding the four adversarial countries.
  • Most voters (57 percent) think it’s at least somewhat likely that military tensions between the United States and China will ramp up over the next 12 months, and even more (65 percent) expect escalation over the next five years.

The context

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping were set to meet at a virtual summit on Monday aimed at reducing tensions. Along with trade, the COVID-19 pandemic and cybersecurity, Washington prepared for the meeting to address real military concerns, with China’s growing nuclear program, its encroachments in the Indo-Pacific region and Biden’s own provocative comments about defending Taiwan all in the mix.

What else you should know

  • Nearly all voters (85 percent) say the United States and China should work to reduce the political and economic tensions between them, and 82 percent say the United States should work hard to avoid a direct military conflict. There’s very little disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on either question.
  • While 47 percent of voters do not have opinions about Xi, those who do are not fans. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) hold negative views of the Chinese leader, compared with 6 percent who view him favorably.
  • Republican voters are much more likely to hold unfavorable views of Biden (89 percent) than Xi (53 percent).

The poll was conducted Nov. 13-15, 2021, among 1,803 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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