Aug 2, 2019 - Politics & Policy
Americans divided over threats from climate change, Russia and Iran
Americans are increasingly likely to see China as a threat to the U.S., though they're sharply divided over the dangers from Iran, Russia and climate change according to a new Pew survey.
What Americans want
- Republicans tend to think it’s more important to take a firm stand against Tehran (68%) than to avoid war (25%), while the opposite is true for Democrats (23% vs. 71%).
- Overall, Americans are narrowly more likely to prioritize avoiding war (49%) than taking a firm stand (44%).
The share of Americans who consider China’s power and influence a major threat rose from 46% to 54% since 2017, with similar jumps seen among Democrats (now 52%) and Republicans (58%).
- Democrats remain more dovish, with only 16% viewing China as an “adversary,” compared to 30% of Republicans.
- Only 19% of Democrats want to “get tougher” with Beijing on trade and the economy, compared to 54% of Republicans.
- Democrats overwhelmingly say President Trump’s tariffs have been bad for Americans (82%), while most Republicans (67%) say they’ve been good.
- In a finding that runs counter to the political zeitgeist, both Republicans (59%) and Democrats (73%) tend to think free trade deals have benefited the U.S.
The great divides...
- A growing proportion of Republicans (38%) believe Russia does not pose a problem for the U.S., compared to 14% of Democrats. Views of Russia have become strikingly partisan and diverged sharply since 2016.
- Democrats rank climate change first on a list of potential threats to the country. Republicans, meanwhile, rank it last.
What to watch
Flashback: Fear of terrorism and the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) were central to the 2016 election cycle, following major attacks at home and abroad.
- Far fewer Americans are worried about ISIS now, according to the poll. The same is true of North Korea — the top fear from two years ago — though 58% say the regime is “not serious” about denuclearization.
- If this week's Democratic debates are a guide, tensions with Iran and competition with China will top the foreign policy agenda in 2020 — along with lingering questions over Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Of course, a lot can change in 15 months.