PRINCETON, NJ -- As Chinese president Xi Jinping travels to the United States to meet with President Obama, 55% of Americans view China as either an ally (11%) or a nation friendly to the U.S. (44%), while 40% say it is either unfriendly (26%) or an enemy (14%).
The U.S.-Chinese meetings come at a time of somewhat uneasy relations between the two countries, with disputes over alleged cyberhacking, unfair trade practices, and North Korea's nuclear program. Despite these issues, only 14% of Americans view China as an "enemy" of the United States. In turn, 11% say it is an ally, with most Americans having a more moderate positive or negative view of China in the June 1-4 poll.
Americans have generally been positive toward China when Gallup has asked this question over the past 13 years, apart from a sharply negative turn in 2001 after a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. surveillance plane. The U.S. plane made an emergency landing but the Chinese government detained the U.S. crew for 12 days before releasing them.
Americans come out a bit more negative than positive toward China when Gallup, in its annual February World Affairs poll, asks whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the country. That suggests Americans may not like certain things about China or its policies, causing them to view the country unfavorably, but not to the degree that they see China as hostile toward the U.S.
Younger Americans and Democrats are much more likely to see China as a friend to the U.S. than are older Americans and Republicans.
The age differences in views of China have been consistent in recent updates of this question. However, Democrats' more positive disposition toward China is not necessarily the norm, as there have been times in the past when Gallup found no meaningful party differences.
Most Americans See Great Britain, Canada as U.S. Allies
Americans have a much more positive view of many countries other than China, especially Great Britain and Canada, on this measure. At least six in 10 Americans view those countries as allies of the United States, with most of the rest describing them as friendly but not allies. Americans also view Israel, Japan, Mexico, and India more positively than China, with between 25% and 46% naming each of these countries "allies."
In comparison with other countries tested in the June 1-4 poll, China falls into a middle group, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Russia. Around half view the countries positively, relatively few see them as U.S. allies, and relatively few also view them as enemies of the U.S.
At the other end of the spectrum, most Americans view Iran and North Korea as enemies of the United States, with most of the rest describing those countries as unfriendly. The vast majority of Americans also view Pakistan and Iraq as being unfriendly or enemies of the U.S.
Americans have mixed views of China, with few describing the emerging superpower as an ally or an enemy of the United States, but more viewing it as a friendly than an unfriendly nation.
Presidents Obama and Xi hope to establish a new course in U.S.-China relations at their meeting this week, moving beyond the uneasy relationship that has existed between the two countries for many decades. These meetings may not dramatically alter Americans' perceptions of China in the short term, but they might establish a more cooperative and friendly relationship between China and the United States that could lead to more Americans viewing China as a friend or an ally over time.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-4, 2013, with a random sample of 1,529 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.