What you need to know
Our survey results indicate that supporters of both major parties in the U.S. show comparable concern over human rights in China.
By Brooklind Norman, Cora-Lynn Freiin von Dungern, Augusta Crowe, and Ebonee Gabhart
Recent international coverage of human rights violations in China has caused a global decline in positive perceptions of the world power. In the United States, public perceptions about international issues, specifically regarding China, are shaped by partisan identification. How heavy is this issue weighted in the minds of the American public, especially in light of economic and security concerns? Is there a partisan difference in perceptions?
We surveyed 931 Americans between the ages of 18 and 92 via Amazon Mechanical Turk on March 4, 2021. First, we asked the respondents what they considered to be the biggest challenges facing U.S.-China relations presently, among the options of trade, security, human rights, or “other.” For simplicity, we excluded the “other” category (3.94% of respondents), although many respondents mentioned topics overlapping with our categories.
Among both Democrats and Republicans, trade issues were seen as more important than the others, followed by human rights and security. Still, this percentage on human rights is still significant, as U.S. focus on human rights in China registered at a higher level than in past surveys. According to the Pew Research Center, human rights being viewed as “a very serious problem for the U.S.” has increased by up to seven percentage points since last year, which we suspect is a result of reporting on human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Democrats and Republicans both showed concern for human rights abuses regarding the U.S.-China relation. Figure 1 shows that 28% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats viewed human rights as a challenge. A report from Human Rights Watch says the level of concern within the past year for human rights abuses in China has grown and is at the highest levels recorded since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
The partisan differences may be due in part to how much attention party leaders and partisan media have placed on China and human rights issues in general or general feelings about China. Nevertheless, our survey results indicate that supporters of both parties show comparable concern over human rights in China. This survey data may indicate that the basis exists for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans on passing major legislation regarding human rights in China.
Brooklind Norman is an undergraduate researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in International Affairs and Chinese.
Cora-Lynn Freiin von Dungern is an undergraduate researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Political Science and Business Economics.
Augusta Crowe is an undergraduate researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Political Science and International Affairs.
Ebonee Gabhart is an undergraduate researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in International Affairs and minoring in Non-Profit Organization.
TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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