According to a new Reuters/Ipsos survey, bipartisan majorities of Americans favor more tariffs on Chinese goods and believe that the United States needs to step up preparations for military threats from the country.
The two-day poll, which concluded on Tuesday, revealed deep worries among Americans about China’s global influence at a time when U.S.-China relations have fallen to their lowest point in decades.
Some 66% of respondents said they were more likely to back a candidate in the 2024 presidential election who “supports additional tariffs on Chinese imports.”
Another 66% of respondents – including 58% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans – agreed with a statement that the United States “needs to do more to prepare for military threats from China.”
Still, just 38% of Americans supported the possible deployment of U.S. troops to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, showing the political constraints facing any president seeking U.S. military involvement in a conflict involving China.
The bipartisan concern about China helps explain the increasingly combative stances Republican presidential candidates have taken toward the world’s second-largest economy.
In recent months, Republican White House hopefuls have attacked China daily, with each candidate trying to show voters that they are best positioned to take on America’s geopolitical foe.
Former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have all called for the United States to end permanent normal trade relations with China, which would limit economic ties between the countries.
Biden has sought to stabilize the intense U.S.-China rivalry through high-level official engagement. But at recent fundraising events the president has called its economy a “ticking time bomb” and referred to its leader Xi Jinping a dictator.
The online Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted nationwide, collecting responses from 1,005 adults, including 443 Democrats and 346 Republicans. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points in either direction.
Seventy-five percent of Americans had a negative view toward China, while 84% saw Xi at least slightly unfavorably. Some 65% felt China’s government was trying to influence the U.S. election.
While half of respondents supported aiding Taiwan with military equipment to deter a possible Chinese attack, 42% opposed deploying U.S. troops in Taiwan’s defense, and 20% said they didn’t know.
Taiwan, the democratically governed island claimed by China as its territory, is the main flashpoint in U.S. ties with China’s Communist government.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns has said that Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an invasion of Taiwan by 2027, though that does not necessarily mean he will go ahead with it.
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its rule.
Biden said in 2022 that U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, appearing to go beyond the long-standing U.S. approach of “strategic ambiguity” – not making clear whether it would respond militarily to such an attack.
But his administration has routinely said there has been no change to U.S. policy toward Taiwan.