US Public Wants China to be Held Responsible for the Coronavirus Pandemic, but is Confused about Biden’s Stance

June 14, 2020
China | Coronavirus | USA Elections

The latest national poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that there is significant demand among the US public for the Chinese Government to be held accountable for its role in the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, the majority of US respondents agree that China should be held responsible for the coronavirus pandemic (58%), with only 16% disagreeing.

The view that China should be held responsible for the coronavirus pandemic is popular across the political spectrum, but it is most prominent among likely Trump voters, with 83% of likely Trump voters agreeing with this view compared to 46% of likely Biden voters.   On the other hand, 27% of likely Biden voters and 4% of likely Trump voters disagree that China should be held responsible for the pandemic.

Biden’s likely voters are deeply divided over their stance on US relations with China, with roughly equal numbers being undecided or favoring closer relations with China, more distant relations, or maintaining the status quo. This division among likely Biden voters contrasts sharply with Trump’s likely voters, the majority of whom want the US to seek more distant relations with China (56%). It will likely create a challenge for Joe Biden as he articulates his vision for US-China relations in the coming months, particularly if President Trump adopts a strong “make China pay” stance in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, our poll found that the public as a whole lacks clarity over Biden’s vision for US-China relations, while firmly believing that President Trump will be tough on China. Whereas 35% of respondents said they would characterize Joe Biden as someone who will be tough on China, another 37% said they would not characterize Biden that way, and a further 28% said they did not know whether they could characterize him as tough on China. Considering the perception among likely Biden voters specifically, the majority (55%) thinks he is someone who will be tough on China. However, a third of his likely voters (32%) do not know whether he will. By comparison, only 5% of likely Trump voters do not know whether they would characterize Trump as someone who will be tough on China.

This difference could become a weakness for Biden and a corresponding strength for Trump, as our poll shows that 54% of Americans consider China to be a threat to the US and its interests, including the plurality of likely Biden voters (45%). Among likely Trump voters, as many as 72% consider China to be a threat to the US and its interests.

The coronavirus crisis appears to have hardened US attitudes towards China: 57% of respondents agreed and 13% disagreed that the Chinese Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis indicates the Chinese Government presents a danger to the US and the world. Once again, even among likely Biden voters, the plurality (46%) agreed, with only 21% disagreeing that the coronavirus crisis has shown the Chinese Government to be a threat to the US and the world.

Part of the growing sentiment among Americans that China should be held responsible for the pandemic has translated into consumer behavior. Americans say they are taking direct action and voting against China with their dollar. Our poll found that 60% of respondents have at least ‘somewhat’ avoided purchasing goods made in China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including 49% of likely Biden voters.

Moreover, the majority of the US public say they would be willing to pay more for US-made products if it meant the United States would be less reliant on China (64%). This figure includes 80% of likely Trump voters and 59% of likely Biden voters—a strong majority in both cases.

Nevertheless, it is very easy for respondents to answer that they would be willing to pay more when this remains an abstract possibility, and they do not know exactly how much more. Thus, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked our respondents how much more they would be willing to pay for US-made products versus Chinese-made products.

Among this sub-group of respondents who indicated they would be willing to pay more for US-made products,we found that 50% of them would be willing to pay up to 10% more for US-made products, and an additional 34% would be willing to pay as much as 25% more for US-made products. These percentages respectively amount to 32% and 22% of the overall sample.

Altogether, there is a clear appetite in the United States for the US Government to take action and hold China responsible for its role in the coronavirus pandemic. Given his strength on this issue against his opponent, President Trump will likely make China a key issue in the 2020 election.

Even so, beyond government action, Americans have taken to voting with their wallet, with the majority at least somewhat avoiding purchasing Chinese-made products since the coronavirus crisis began. Moreover, half of American consumers are willing to pay at least an additional 10% more for US-made products, including a fifth who would pay as much as 25% more for US-made products, suggesting American consumers are showing a clear commitment to encouraging local production and reducing imports from China, even if it costs them more.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.