NEW YORK -- American opinion toward China and its leadership has hit a historic low as the two countries wrestle to shape the coronavirus narrative, new data from the Pew Research Center shows.
Roughly 66% of U.S. adults said they have an unfavorable view of China in a survey out Tuesday -- the most since Pew started asking about it in 2005 and marking a jump of nearly 20 percentage points from 2017, the Trump administration's first year.
And 71% said they have no confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the right thing in world affairs, up from 50% last year and the highest since the center began asking in 2014, when the reading was 58%. The share of respondents seeing China's growing power and influence as a major threat to the U.S. increased 14 points from 2018 to 62%.
"But while half or more of those 50 and older have held negative views of China since 2012, this is the first year in which more than half of younger Americans also have an unfavorable opinion," Pew noted. "Among this age group, negative views have roughly doubled since the question was first asked."
The findings of the March 3-29 survey reflect a deteriorating relationship between the world's two largest economies at a time of global crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But increased American distrust of China preceded the new virus. And the Pew report noted that "while the U.S. president's rhetoric toward China's leadership during the outbreak has fluctuated in tone, the American public's attitudes remained fairly stable over the course of this survey."
The continued decline in U.S. public perception of China builds "on the dramatic uptick in negativity seen between 2018 and 2019" -- two years in which bilateral relations were defined by the tariff war and American alarms on cybersecurity against such Chinese tech giants as Huawei Technologies.
And while Republicans remain more wary of China, negative views are also growing among Democrats. Some 62% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they have an unfavorable opinion, up from 41% in 2017. Republicans and Republican leaners saying so increased to 72% from 56%.
The increasingly bipartisan narrative of a Chinese threat has made its way into the 2020 campaign strategy of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee once seen as relatively Beijing-friendly compared with the Trump administration.
"Trump rolled over for the Chinese," a recent Biden campaign advertisement declared.
"Trump praised the Chinese 15 times in January and February as the coronavirus spread across the world," said the ad, which ended with footage of Trump appearing at an event with Xi.
The ad, which has generated controversy in the U.S. for its perceived racist overtones, came as a counterblow to Trump.
The incumbent president has repeatedly accused Biden of going soft on Beijing and gone after his son Hunter, who had business dealings in China.
Trump's reelection campaign "is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic," The Washington Post reported.