Geopolitics

Democrats’ Renewed Interest in Scaling Back China Tariffs to Fight Inflation Will Increase Companies’ Leverage to Overturn Them

The reversal in sentiment relative to May 2022 coincides with Biden’s lowest approval rating to date and growing Republican support for tariff reductions

Graphic conveying U.S. relations with China amid Democrats' interest in reducing tariffs to combat inflation
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Sara Wickersham
  • A plurality of Democrats (44%) again want the Biden administration to reduce tariffs on China to fight inflation. Meanwhile, the share of Republicans who support keeping them in place (51%) is at a six-month low.

  • Overall, U.S. adults are now less enthusiastic about the China tariffs than at nearly any point since Morning Consult began tracking the issue in February 2022.

  • The parallel deterioration in Biden’s approval rating means that companies pushing to overturn the tariffs have a better chance of doing so than at any time over the past six months.

Democrats again want the Biden administration to scale back China tariffs

A plurality of Democrats (44%) now support reducing tariffs on China to fight inflation, reversing course relative to May 2022, when our data showed the opposite. Meanwhile, the share who prefer to keep the tariffs in place (33%) is hovering just above a six-month low.

A Plurality of Democrats Support Reducing Tariffs on China to Fight Inflation

Respondents were asked if the United States should keep existing tariffs on China in place or reduce them to lower prices

Survey conducted monthly among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. Responses of “Don’t know/No opinion” not shown.

Republicans have also soured on the tariffs. As of July 2022, the share who support keeping them in place (51%) is at a six-month low, while 28% of Republicans support scaling them back, up 11 percentage points since May.

Overall, U.S. adults are now less enthusiastic about the China tariffs than at nearly any point over the past six months.

Inflation dynamics are the likely driver

As inflation continues to run hot, and with some metrics continuing to show a historic acceleration, our data suggests the tariffs’ impact on prices — though muted relative to overall inflation — has now become unbearable rather than merely inconvenient.

U.S. voters’ support for inflation-inducing sanctions on Russia similarly reversed course in May 2022. The timing lends further weight to the argument that inflation sensitivities are a more likely driver of Americans’ flip-flop on the China tariffs than recent developments in U.S.-China relations. U.S. adults’ relatively stable favorability toward China over this same time period similarly points in this direction.

Companies with tariff fatigue now have substantial political leverage to overturn them

Democrats’ reversal in sentiment comes amid increasingly frenzied chatter that the Biden administration may reduce some tariffs on China in the coming weeks to help fight inflation, even though the impact on prices is likely to be small. In contrast to our analysis from May 2022, the data now suggests this timing is politically fortuitous for the Biden administration: The president’s approval is at an all-time low, per Morning Consult’s Global Leader Approval Ratings.

Both developments are also fortuitous for companies opposed to the tariffs. While public enthusiasm for the tariffs was similarly low in February 2022, the ongoing deterioration in Biden’s approval rating means that companies pushing to overturn them now face better odds than at any time over the past six months.

Morning Consult