More Americans today say the U.S. is beating China as the world's leading economic power than did so two years ago, an increase driven by a surge in positive sentiment among Democrats and independents, according to new data from Gallup.
Forty-four percent of Americans say the U.S. is the leading economic power in the world, compared to 42% who identify China as such. In 2021, 50% of Americans said China was the leading economic power while 37% answered the U.S. The poll was conducted over the month of February and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
The White House cheered the polling as evidence of the success of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, which has sold its investments in tech manufacturing, clean energy and infrastructure projects as part of a broader plan to outcompete China.
“Of course Americans are more confident in America,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson told Semafor. “Thanks to President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ Investing in America Agenda, communities from Boise to Poughkeepsie are building the semiconductors, electric vehicles, and solar panels to keep the American economy on top for decades to come.”
Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones identified several factors that may be contributing to the change.
One is partisanship: Biden mentions China often and voters tend to feel better about the trajectory of the economy when their own party’s president is in power.
The share of Democrats who see the U.S. as the dominant economic power has jumped 14 percentage points since 2021 — the year Biden took office — while the share of independents saying so increased by nine percentage points, according to the Gallup poll. A plurality of Republicans, meanwhile, say China is the leading economic power, a result largely unchanged from 2021.
“Republicans were very positive about the U.S. as the world power when [Donald] Trump was in office and as soon as he left became more negative,” Jones told Semafor. “Democrats didn’t show quite as dramatic a change with the change in administration, but this past year they did shoot up a little bit.”
When the question is posed in the long term, Republicans and Democrats are both more likely to believe the U.S. will be the leading economic power two decades from now as opposed to China, according to Gallup. The result is actually highest among Republicans, with 50% saying so, while independents are divided.
It is notable that voters have become more optimistic about U.S. competitiveness even as Gallup polling suggests they’re extremely dissatisfied with the current U.S. economy.
But the change in attitude may reflect changes in what Americans are hearing about China as well. After seeing decades of headlines about roaring Chinese growth, recent years have featured major negative stories about “zero COVID” protests, government crackdowns, and economic stumbles.
“I think people might have some sense of how the Chinese economy is doing,” Jones said. “That may weigh into the fact that the U.S. is more positive now even when people aren’t that happy about how the U.S. economy is.”