Americans Hold Record-Low Opinion of China, Russia As Joe Biden Takes Both On

A new poll shows historically low favorability ratings for Russia and China among American voters, as President Joe Biden takes on both regimes in the ongoing battle for influence among the three nuclear-armed nations.

Gallup found that favorable opinions of China have dropped to 20 percent while those of Russia are at 22 percent. For both nations the favorability scores were the lowest Gallup has ever recorded.

The survey included 1,021 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The poll was conducted between February 3 and 18, and has a sampling error of 4 percentage points.

American favorability of China plummeted over the past year as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. There is also rising anger at Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet, plus Beijing's role in territorial disputes along the border with India, in the South China Sea, and around the democratic island of Taiwan.

Favorability fell by 13 percent on last year's figure, which itself came after an eight-point drop the year before.

Former President Donald Trump was openly hostile to China, launching a wide-ranging trade war with Beijing and publicly blaming the Chinese Communist Party for the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also used the issue as a tool to beat Biden on the campaign trail, framing his opponent as weak on China.

The new president vowed to be tough on the authoritarian CCP while campaigning. Since taking office, Biden has ordered a Pentagon review to sharpen America's containment strategy of China, and has spoken out against CCP human rights and trade abuses— much to the anger of officials in Beijing.

Recent years have seen the emergence of a bipartisan consensus in Washington that China represents a threat to American hegemony and worldwide democracy. The new Gallup poll suggests lawmakers have the backing of voters in confronting Beijing, with 79 percent of respondents unfavorable towards China.

American favorability for China is now worse than the previous lows of 1997, 2000 and even 1989, shortly after the infamous government crackdown on pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square. Favorability has not been the majority answer since 2018.

Favorability is low across the political spectrum, but Republicans were more likely to be China-skeptic with a favorability of 10 percent; 13 percent lower than last year. Democrat favorability fell eight points to 27 percent while for independents the score went down 17 points to 22 percent.

The picture was equally bleak for U.S.-Russia ties, which have been falling for years amid concerns about Moscow's aggression against neighbors, covert operations against dissidents abroad, meddling in democratic elections and cyber attacks against American targets.

Overall favorability for Russia dropped six points to a record low of 22 percent. Of all respondents, 77 percent now have an unfavorable opinion of the country.

Republicans and independents were more likely to hold a positive view of Russia, with 25 and 24 percent favorability respectively. Only 16 percent of Democrats said they felt favorably towards Moscow. Since last year, the views of Republicans and Democrats are unchanged, but Russian favorability among independents has dropped by 12 points.

Biden is widely expected to be tougher on Russia than his predecessor. Trump spent his entire term pushing back on evidence and official reports that Russia worked to undermine his 2016 presidential opponent Hilary Clinton. Trump also regularly railed against charges that his campaign coordinated with Russian officials to boost his 2016 chances.

Last month, Biden told the Munich Security Conference that Russia "attacks our democracies and weaponizes corruption to try to undermine our system of governance...Russian leaders want people to think that our system is more corrupt or as corrupt as theirs. But the world knows that isn't true, including Russians."

Intelligence officials warned that Russia was actively denigrating Biden during the campaign, hoping for another four years of Trump. President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to work with either man, but also compared Biden's platform to communism— echoing inaccurate GOP talking points.

"Putin seeks to weaken European—the European project and our NATO alliance," Biden said. "He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and our resolve, because it's so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states than it is to negotiate with a strong and closely united transatlantic community."

Joe Biden on White House South Lawn
President Joe Biden speaks to the media at the White House before he walks to Marine on the south lawn on February 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Getty