Getty Images

A strong majority of Americans believe the U.S. should take steps to correct its trade deficit with China, but a majority disapprove of President Trump’s proposed tariffs and there are fears that a trade war could damage the economy.

According to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, 71 percent of voters say the U.S. should take steps to address a $375 billion trade imbalance with China.

Fifty-two percent disapprove of the administration’s proposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, including those from China, and 43 percent said they believe Trump’s proposed tariffs will result in job losses. Thirty-eight percent said the tariffs would protect American jobs and 18 percent said the tariffs would have no impact.


More than two-thirds of voters say they’re concerned countries will retaliate against the U.S., potentially sparking a global trade war.

“Time and time again, the public wants the president to accomplish things such as stopping China from taking advantage of the U.S., but is nervous about the tough steps taken to bring actors like China, North Korea or Iran to the table,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris co-director Mark Penn. “Likely they will reward success and pounce on failure here, so it’s a big gamble for Trump.”

The poll did find that male, white, Republican, conservative and self-described Trump voters approve of the tariffs.

The Chinese government responded this week to Trump with its own set of tariffs targeting American soybeans, cars and other exports.

The retaliation from China is aimed at the U.S. heartland — the manufacturing and farming states in the Rust Belt and Midwest that propelled Trump to his election victory in 2016.

GOP senators in Iowa and Kansas fumed over the back-and-forth, warning that farmers and ranchers would be hit hardest by a trade war.

The White House in recent days has sought to tamp down fears of a trade war.

Officials have noted that the tariffs have not yet gone into effect and that there is still time for the U.S. and China to reach an agreement that avoids them before a May deadline.

“None of the proposed tariffs are in place yet,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Thursday. “The president is the best negotiator on the planet.”

Sixty-one percent of those polled said they approve of using the threat of tariffs to win more favorable terms in trade negotiations.

Fifty-five percent believe existing trade agreements cost American jobs.

But there is generally support for more free and open trade, with 53 percent saying it results in lower prices for American consumers. Fifty-four percent said their personal financial situation had been helped by the expansion of free trade.

“The American public has always been ambivalent about trade and agrees other countries have taken advantage of the U.S. while seeing lower prices,” Penn said. “President Trump and his team have the job of leadership here — the public shares the administration’s goals — but they have to convince the public these are the right steps and not risky over-the-top measures.”

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,340 registered voters was conducted March 27–29. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2018. 

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. 

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

Tags China Donald Trump Harvard CAPS/Harris poll online polling Tariffs Trade

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video