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Most Chinese Have No Opinion in U.S. Election

Most Chinese Have No Opinion in U.S. Election

Preference for Obama is higher in urban areas

by Nicole Naurath

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new Gallup Poll of China finds most Chinese (83%) do not have an opinion about which candidate they would rather see elected president of the United States, a finding consistent with results from several other Asian countries. Gallup polling in late September and early October finds that 12% of Chinese would personally rather see Democratic Sen. Barack Obama elected the next U.S. president and 5% would prefer Republican Sen. John McCain, a difference that is within the survey's margin of error.


Residents of China's top three cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou -- are much more likely than Chinese living in other areas to express a preference for the next U.S. president, with 41% preferring Obama to McCain (13%). Forty-six percent did not have an opinion on the matter. Among urban Chinese living outside these three cities, respondents' likelihood to express a preference for one candidate or the other drops off and becomes similar to the nationwide numbers from China.


When Gallup asked if it makes a difference to China who becomes the next president of the United States, overall, 16% of Chinese say that it does make a difference, 25% say it does not, and 59% did not know or refused to answer the question. Again, respondents living in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are more likely than those living elsewhere to have an opinion and are evenly split in their responses: 33% say that it makes a difference to their country, while 35% say it does not make a difference (the remaining 32% did not have an opinion). The proportion of respondents not offering an opinion consistently rises as respondents' location becomes more rural.


Bottom Line

The U.S. presidential election is receiving widespread media coverage in China, not only in the large urban areas, but also in rural areas. However, Gallup finds that the U.S. election is hardly top of mind in the world's most populous country. Many Chinese, particularly rural dwellers (who make up more than half of China's total population), still live in extreme poverty. And many of these people may view the U.S. election as irrelevant in the face of daily concerns about their families' survival. Due in no small part to China's huge stake in the global economy, the global financial crisis may also take precedence over the U.S. election in the eyes of those Chinese who do stay apprised of international affairs.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,239 adults in China, aged 15 and older, conducted Sept. 22-Oct. 20, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of design-adjusted sampling error is ±6 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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