Tech

As Congress Seeks to Boost Tech Competition With China, Voters More Likely to Say U.S. Leads on Military Tech, AVs and 5G

But the bulk of the electorate says the U.S. trails its rival on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and chip manufacturing

Flanked by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks about the COMPETES Act at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 4, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Almost half of voters in a Morning Consult/Politico survey believe China is ahead of the United States in domestic chip manufacturing, compared to just 18% who said the United States is in the lead. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As Congress debates legislation to bolster the United States’ competitiveness with China, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds that while voters are more likely to believe the United States is ahead on military technology, autonomous vehicles and 5G, pluralities say it trails China in other areas, including artificial intelligence and chip manufacturing.

Just Over Half of Voters Believe U.S. Leads China on Military Tech
But more than 2 in 5 said China surpasses the United States when it comes to computer chips

Respondents were asked if they think the United States is more advanced than, as equally advanced as or less advanced than China in the following areas:

Survey conducted April 29-May 2, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,000 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses are not shown.

What the numbers say

  • Just over half of voters (52%) believe the United States is ahead of China in military technology, compared to 15% who believe China is more advanced and 16% who said the nations are on equal footing. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall previously told Reuters that the country is in an “arms race” with China over the development of next-generation hypersonic weapons.
  • Most notably for congressional negotiators, almost half of surveyed voters believe China is ahead of the United States in domestic chip manufacturing, compared to just 18% who said the United States is in the lead. Competing House and Senate measures would spend billions to subsidize domestic chip manufacturing, an effort that has bipartisan support among both voters and elected officials.
  • Pluralities of voters also say the United States is ahead of China in developing autonomous vehicles and 5G technology. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and Harvard government professor Graham Allison slammed what they called a “pathetic” U.S. performance in its 5G rollout compared to China, while AV development has continued apace, although the regulatory outlook appears uncertain in both countries.
  • Voters are skeptical about U.S. efforts in other areas: More voters believe China has the edge in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, two areas where experts such as former Pentagon Chief Software Officer Nicolas Chaillan, as well as researchers Thomas Corbett and P.W. Singer, believe China is far outstripping the United States.

Why it matters

Legislation to boost the country’s ability to compete with China has been more than a year in the making, though the process has been littered with disagreement as both chambers of Congress passed separate bills that would take different approaches to competitiveness.

Industry leaders welcomed the apparent momentum on legislation, especially for spending on domestic chipmaking, which could provide relief from the semiconductor supply chain crunch wrought by COVID lockdowns and the war in Ukraine that have both snarled production in Asia.

In a statement, John Neuffer, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association, urged Congress to pass a bill that funds domestic semiconductor production and “sharpens America’s technological edge for decades to come.”

Meanwhile, sources told Punchbowl News last month that there is willingness on both sides of the aisle to reach a deal on the package.

 

The April 29-May 2, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,000 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.