About 60 percent of Americans surveyed in a new Quinnipiac University Poll have listed China as a bigger threat to the United States over Russia.
The poll, which was conducted between March 9–13, asked 1,795 American adults about their views on a range of political topics. One question asked respondents to identify who they consider the greatest threat to the United States among the countries of China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba.
A majority of 61 percent viewed China as the biggest threat to the United States, while 22 percent said Russia. Eight percent of respondents said North Korea poses the biggest threat and two percent said Iran. Less than a percent of respondents identified Venezuela or Cuba as the top threat, while three percent of respondents volunteered an unlisted option and four percent said they did not know.
China was the top concern for respondents across party lines. 79 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents, and 47 percent of Democrats selected China as the leading threat to the United States.
By contrast, 38 percent of Democrats, 18 percent of independents, and 10 percent of Republicans saw Russia as the leading threat.
The Quinnipiac findings are similar to those from a recent Gallup poll, which showed that 50 percent of U.S. respondents considered China the biggest threat to the United States, compared to 32 percent who said that Russia was the bigger threat. That Gallup poll found even broader negative views of China, with more than eight in ten Americans expressing unfavorable views of the country.
China and TikTok
U.S. officials have shared increased concerns over China and its ruling communist party in recent months.
In February, U.S. officials decried the transit of a Chinese high-altitude balloon over U.S. airspace, alleging the balloon was one of several recent efforts by the Chinese government to spy on the United States.
U.S. officials have pointed to the popular social media app TikTok as another avenue for Chinese government actors to surveil Americans. TikTok is owned by a Chinese parent company called ByteDance.
Multiple reports have indicated that TikTok and ByteDance employees can and have accessed U.S. user data from China.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has also warned that TikTok could be used to conduct influence operations against U.S. citizens, manipulating users’ content to promote views favorable to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The new Quinnipiac University poll found that a 49 percent plurality of U.S. respondents preferred banning the app in the United States, while 42 percent opposed a ban. Nine percent said they don’t know whether either way where they stand on a ban.
Views on the proposed TikTok ban differed with respondents political views: 64 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents said they support a ban on TikTok. A 51 percent majority of Democrats opposed a ban on the app, while 39 percent supported said they support a ban.
The Origins of COVID
COVID-19 has been another factor making Americans wary of the Chinese leadership, with the topic escalating again in recent weeks. In February, the U.S. Department of Energy assessed, with low confidence, that a lab leak was the probable point of origin for the deadly virus. That same week, the FBI reiterated its belief that COVID-19 most likely came from a lab leak. The FBI said its assessment was made with “moderate confidence,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lab leak theory proponents specifically consider a virology lab in China, called the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), as the likely point of origin for COVID-19. The first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Wuhan near the lab, and members of the lab were reported to have fallen sick in the early stages of the pandemic.
On the origin of COVID-19, 64 percent of Quinnipiac University poll respondents said they consider the lab leak theory to be the most likely explanation, while 22 percent of respondents said the virus could have been the result of natural transmission, and two percent said it could have been caused by something else entirely.
The lab leak theory is supported by 87 percent and 67 percent majorities of Republican and independent respondents respectively. The theory is also supported by a 42 percent plurality of Democrat respondents.