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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.

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

What Americans want

On Iran...

  • 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%).

On China...

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.

Go deeper: Big foreign policy changes coming if Trump loses