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Americans Consider China to Be the Greatest Threat to the US, Pew Research Poll

Published: July 27, 2023
This combination of pictures created on Nov. 11, 2022 shows US President Joe Biden (L) speaking during a press conference a day after the US midterm elections, from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 9, 2022 and China's President Xi Jinping (R) speaking after walking with members of the Chinese Communist Party's new Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's top decision-making body, to meet the media in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 23, 2022. (Image: MANDEL NGAN,NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images) In a December 14, 2022 meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Biden will tell Xi that China has "an interest in playing a constructive role in restraining North Korea's worst tendencies," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters. (Photo by Mandel NGAN and Noel CELIS / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN,NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

According to a research poll, published by the Pew Research Center on July 27, 50 percent of Americans consider China to be the greatest threat to the United States.

The survey polled more than 3,500 American adults in the U.S. from March 20 to 26 2023.

The poll also found that just 17 percent of Americans consider Russia to be the largest threat, four percent don’t consider any nation a threat and two percent named North Korea as America’s largest worry. 

The poll asked an open ended question, asking Americans to name any country as the greatest threat to the U.S..

Pew said that it’s difficult to compare year-over-year results but noted that “Americans have not always seen China as the top threat to the United States.”

“When we last asked a question of this sort in 2019, equal shares of Americans pointed to China and Russia as the greatest threat facing their country,” researchers wrote. 

The poll indicates that Americans’ feelings towards China have deteriorated considerably over the past half a decade. 

Laura Clancy, a research analyst with Pew told CNBC via email, “The share of Americans with an unfavorable opinion of China has risen from 79 percent in 2020 to 83 percent in 2023,” adding that, “In that time, the center had asked Americans about several specific issues including the partnership between China and Russia, which 62 percent call a very serious problem for the U.S..”


Significant partisan and ideological differences

The poll found that both Republicans and Democrats identify China as the greatest threat facing the U.S. however did uncover “significant partisan and ideological differences.”

“Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to name China as the greatest threat to the United States (63% vs. 40%). And conservative Republicans are much more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to say this (74% vs. 47%),” the research found. 

When it comes to Russia, the opposite is true. Researchers found that Liberal Democrats are the ideological group that is most likely to view Russia as the greatest threat to the U.S. while Republicans are the least likely to say this. 

While 50 percent of Americans on average see China as the greatest threat, 61 percent of Americans 65-years-old or older felt this way compared to just 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29. 

Men were also more likely to say China is America’s greatest threat with 59 percent of men believing this as opposed to just 42 percent of women. 

“In the case of Russia, there are no significant age differences: Americans ages 18 to 29 are about as likely as those 65 and older to see Russia as the greatest threat to the U.S. (18% vs. 15%). When it comes to gender, women are slightly more likely than men to name Russia (19% vs. 15%),” researchers found.


UK America’s most important ally

Surprisingly, Americans chose the United Kingdom over its neighbor Canada as America’s most important ally, with 22 percent of Americans identifying the British island as its top ally compared to only six percent choosing Canada. 

Israel was chosen by four percent of Americans, Germany three percent and China and Japan two percent. 

Researchers note that around half of respondents (48 percent) did not provide a “substantive answer.”

“Among those who offered a substantive response, one “special relationship” stands out: Around a fifth of Americans (22%) name the United Kingdom as their country’s most important ally,” researchers wrote, adding that this is nearly four times the share who name America’s northern neighbor, Canada, which was chosen by just six percent of those polled.  

Researchers found that partisan differences over which country is the greatest ally to the U.S. were “relatively muted.”

Republican and Republican-leaning independents were more likely to name the UK as America’s most important ally; 26 percent of Republicans chose the UK as opposed to 21 percent of Democrats. 

Eight percent of Republicans named Israel the U.S.’s most important ally compared to just one percent of Democrats who believe the same.

“Older Americans are much more likely than younger Americans to see both the UK and Israel as America’s top ally. Younger Americans are somewhat more likely than their older counterparts to say the U.S. has no allies; they are also significantly less likely to offer a response on this question,” researchers found.