U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Asia this week and reportedly planning to visit Taiwan. If Pelosi makes the trip, she would be the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to do so in 25 years. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened unspecified “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi visits the island.
As the situation unfolds, here are fast facts about how Americans see tensions between China and Taiwan, based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March among 3,581 U.S. adults:
- A large majority of Americans (78%) say tensions between China and Taiwan are at least a somewhat serious problem for the United States. That includes around a third (35%) who describe these tensions as very serious. Still, larger shares of Americans see other issues in the U.S.-China relationship as very serious problems for the U.S., including the partnership between China and Russia, China’s involvement in politics in the U.S. and China’s military power.
The share of Americans who describe tensions between China and Taiwan as a very serious problem for the U.S. has increased 7 percentage points since last year, when 28% expressed this view.
- Historically, tensions between China and Taiwan have not been among the issues that Americans are most likely to see as major problems for the U.S. Pew Research Center has asked about multiple issues in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship for a decade. While the exact list of issues asked about has changed somewhat over time, tensions between China and Taiwan typically have been among the least pressing in the minds of American adults. In 2021, 2018 and 2015, for example, it ranked last among the issues asked about.
- Older Americans are significantly more likely than younger ones to see tensions between China and Taiwan as a very serious problem for the U.S. Around half of those ages 65 and older (52%) describe these tensions as very serious, compared with 36% of those 50 to 64 and only around a quarter of adults who are younger. While older people are more likely than younger people to describe all of the seven issues asked about in this year’s survey as very serious problems for the U.S., this age gap is particularly wide when it comes to tensions between China and Taiwan.
- Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say China-Taiwan relations are a very serious problem for the U.S. Four-in-ten Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party say this, compared with 32% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. Still, this gap is relatively smaller than the double-digit differences in attitudes that are evident when it comes to China’s involvement in U.S. politics (which Republicans are 18 percentage points more likely than Democrats to see as a major problem), economic competition with China (14 points) and China’s military power (12 points). In 2021 and 2018, there were no significant partisan differences when it came to Americans’ views about the seriousness of China-Taiwan tensions.