Throughout the course of the past year, American relations with China have been severely strained, beginning with the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan and the Chinese Government’s subsequent handling of the pandemic, which has been subjected to considerable criticism. In the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, a plurality (41%) of Americans said China is significantly to blame for the coronavirus crisis and 30% said China is somewhat to blame. Just 11% of respondents said China is not at all to blame for the pandemic.
Respondents aged 65 and over (48%) are the most likely to believe China is significantly to blame for the pandemic, whereas a plurality of 35-to-44-year-olds (42%) believe China is only somewhat to blame. Further, a much greater proportion of 2020 Donald Trump voters (62%) think China is significantly to blame for the crisis when compared to Joe Biden voters (22%), reflecting the two leaders’ differences in their rhetoric about China.
There has not been a notable change in results since we last asked this question in December 2020, when 39% of respondents thought China was significantly to blame for the crisis. However, there has been a decrease since we first asked this question in April 2020 and found 47% of respondents believed China was significantly to blame for the pandemic at that time.
In our latest poll, a majority (62%) of respondents said they believe the Chinese Government covered up the outbreak of the coronavirus, while a quarter (24%) said they don’t know. Alternatively, 14% of Americans believe the Chinese Government warned the world about the coronavirus outbreak.
A majority of all age groups believe the Chinese Government covered up the pandemic’s outbreak, though this conviction is highest among 65-and-overs (69%) and lowest among 25-to-34-year-olds (53%) and 35-to-44-year-olds (53%).
Once again, respondents who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 Election are substantially more likely to believe the Chinese Government covered up the outbreak (73%) than those who voted for Joe Biden (53%).
The origins of the coronavirus have been widely speculated on throughout the pandemic, with one theory stating the virus originated from a research lab in Wuhan. Initially, China claimed that the virus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, but that explanation has now been disavowed, and the Chinese CDC admit that it has no idea how the pandemic began, according to journalist Josh Rogin.
Americans are split on which explanation they find more plausible: 38% of respondents consider it more plausible that the pandemic originated from a research lab in Wuhan where a researcher studying coronaviruses accidently got infected, whereas 33% find it more plausible that the pandemic originated from a wet market where an animal carrying the virus was sold. A considerable 29% of the American public says they don’t know which is more plausible.
The explanation that the pandemic originated from a research lab is deemed more plausible by over half of 2020 Donald Trump voters (54%) and a quarter of 2020 Joe Biden voters (24%), again a likely result of Donald Trump’s and his administration’s comments on the topic. Meanwhile, the explanation that the pandemic originated from a wet market is considered more plausible by a plurality of 35-to-44-year-olds (40%) and respondents with a bachelor’s degree (39%).
Results have not changed substantially since we asked Americans a similar question much earlier on in the pandemic. In April 2020, 30% of respondents said it was more plausible that the virus originated from a lapse in safety standards at a lab studying coronaviruses in bats. A close 29% of Americans conversely found it more plausible that the pandemic originated from a market that sold live animals, while 34% said the two explanations sounded equally plausible. Almost a year later, Americans are still divided on which explanation for the coronavirus’ origins is the most plausible.
With large majorities of the American public believing China is at least somewhat to blame for the coronavirus pandemic and the Chinese Government covered up the outbreak, the country’s views of China appear to have been damaged by the pandemic. This change is especially true for those who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 Election. There is also considerable scepticism about the virus’s origins, the implication being that many Americans—including a majority of Trump voters—believe the World Health Organisation and Chinese Government have been wrong or have lied about where the coronavirus came from.