Just where does the blame lie for the COVID-19 pandemic? According to a new Harris poll, few issues have brought such immediate public consensus as this has. More than three-quarters of all Americans, and supermajorities of both parties, lay the blame at Beijing’s feet. The national debate has lagged behind this political consensus, but the national media might be lagging even further behind:
Inside the Beltway, Republicans attack Democrats, Joe Biden and the media for not being critical enough of the Chinese Communist Party. Democrats attack President Trump for saying “Chinese virus” and attack any Republicans who blame the coronavirus pandemic on the CCP as racist.
Yet a new poll shows that, outside the Beltway, the coronavirus crisis is actually bringing Americans together on the China issue. Republicans and Democrats now largely agree that the Chinese government bears responsibility for the spread of the pandemic, that it can’t be trusted on this or any other issue, and that the U.S. government should maintain a tough position on China on trade and overall, especially if Beijing again falters in its commitments.
Note well the issue of trust. At the very same time that media outlets keep repeating data from China uncritically, their consumers have decided that it’s not to be believed:
The bipartisan consensus on China doesn’t stop there. Ninety percent of Republicans said the Chinese government is responsible for the spread of the virus, compared to 67 percent of Democrats. Only 22 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Democrats said they thought the Chinese government reported their coronavirus statistics accurately.
On trade, there’s even more agreement. Neither party seems to know whether China will fulfill its obligations under Trump’s “phase one” trade deal. But strong majorities in both parties believe that the U.S. government should reimpose tough tariffs if Beijing doesn’t live up to its obligations. Majorities in both parties also believe U.S. manufacturers should pull back from China in the wake of the crisis.
That trade pullback may already be happening, about which we’ll have more later. The issue of trust in China’s propaganda is more significant for the moment, because American media outlets keep parroting it, especially to use in comparison to the US response. Last week, a number of them (including NBC) reported uncritically that China had reported no new deaths overnight from the Wuhan Flu, and only 32 new cases overall — while reports from Shanghai and other places talked of renewed lockdowns and mass orders of urns flowing into Hubei province. China has consistently lied about the nature and scope of the pandemic, which the world discovered the hard way starting at the end of January.
The crosstabs on China’s credibility with the American public are rather brutal. Only 28% overall of the 1,993 respondents find their reports credible, with 72% calling their data “inaccurate,” in Harris’ polite phrasing. The most favorable demo for China’s propaganda is 18-34 year olds, who split 39/61; seniors are the least open to it of all demos, 14/86. The partisan splits are listed in Josh Rogin’s report from the Washington Post above, but it’s pretty much the same story in all demos. Interestingly, women are among the least receptive demos (24/76), with men a bit more open at 32/68, which would be a bit counterintuitive considering the political demo splits.
By the way, the crosstabs on China’s responsibility are even more brutal. The only demo not to have 75% or more blaming China is Democrats, who still split 67/33. And, for the record, majorities in each wave of this poll support Donald Trump calling it the “Chinese virus,” with the latest wave (4/3-5) the biggest at 58/42. That’s yet another pushback to the media narrative that using that nomenclature is racist rather than an accurate pinning of responsibility where it lies.
The American public is smart enough to know Beijing propaganda when they see it. Why hasn’t our national media caught up with them? Perhaps they’re more concerned with their own anti-Trump agenda to care.