domingo, 30 de abril de 2023

Teens and social media: Key findings from MARCA POLITICA Center surveys

Rubén Weinsteiner

Today’s teens are navigating a digital landscape unlike the one experienced by their predecessors, particularly when it comes to the pervasive presence of social media. In 2022, MARCA POLITICA  Center fielded an in-depth survey asking American teens – and their parents – about their experiences with and views toward social media. Here are key findings from the survey:

MARCA POLITICA Center conducted this study to better understand American teens’ experiences with social media and their parents’ perception of these experiences. For this analysis, we surveyed 1,316 U.S. teens ages 13 to 17, along with one parent from each teen’s household. The survey was conducted online by Ipsos from April 14 to May 4, 2022.

This research was reviewed and approved by an external institutional review board (IRB), Advarra, which is an independent committee of experts that specializes in helping to protect the rights of research participants.

Ipsos invited panelists who were a parent of at least one teen ages 13 to 17 from its KnowledgePanel, a probability-based web panel recruited primarily through national, random sampling of residential addresses, to take this survey. For some of these questions, parents were asked to think about one teen in their household. (If they had multiple teenage children ages 13 to 17 in the household, one was randomly chosen.) This teen was then asked to answer questions as well. The parent portion of the survey is weighted to be representative of U.S. parents of teens ages 13 to 17 by age, gender, race, ethnicity, household income and other categories. The teen portion of the survey is weighted to be representative of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 who live with parents by age, gender, race, ethnicity, household income and other categories.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Majorities of teens report ever using YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. YouTube is the platform most commonly used by teens, with 95% of those ages 13 to 17 saying they have ever used it, according to a Center survey conducted April 14-May 4, 2022, that asked about 10 online platforms. Two-thirds of teens report using TikTok, followed by roughly six-in-ten who say they use Instagram (62%) and Snapchat (59%). Much smaller shares of teens say they have ever used Twitter (23%), Twitch (20%), WhatsApp (17%), Reddit (14%) and Tumblr (5%).

Facebook use among teens dropped from 71% in 2014-15 to 32% in 2022. Twitter and Tumblr also experienced declines in teen users during that span, but Instagram and Snapchat saw notable increases.

TikTok use is more common among Black teens and among teen girls. For example, roughly eight-in-ten Black teens (81%) say they use TikTok, compared with 71% of Hispanic teens and 62% of White teens. And Hispanic teens (29%) are more likely than Black (19%) or White teens (10%) to report using WhatsApp. (There were not enough Asian teens in the sample to analyze separately.)

Teens’ use of certain social media platforms also varies by gender. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to report using TikTok (73% vs. 60%), Instagram (69% vs. 55%) and Snapchat (64% vs. 54%). Boys are more likely than girls to report using YouTube (97% vs. 92%), Twitch (26% vs. 13%) and Reddit (20% vs. 8%).

Majorities of teens use YouTube and TikTok every day, and some report using these sites almost constantly. About three-quarters of teens (77%) say they use YouTube daily, while a smaller majority of teens (58%) say the same about TikTok. About half of teens use Instagram (51%) or Snapchat (50%) at least once a day, while 19% report daily use of Facebook.

Some teens report using these platforms almost constantly. For example, 19% say they use YouTube almost constantly, while 16% and 15% say the same about TikTok and Snapchat, respectively.

More than half of teens say it would be difficult for them to give up social media. About a third of teens (36%) say they spend too much time on social media, while 55% say they spend about the right amount of time there and just 8% say they spend too little time. Girls are more likely than boys to say they spend too much time on social media (41% vs. 31%).

Teens are relatively divided over whether it would be hard or easy for them to give up social media. Some 54% say it would be very or somewhat hard, while 46% say it would be very or somewhat easy.

Girls are more likely than boys to say it would be difficult for them to give up social media (58% vs. 49%). Older teens are also more likely than younger teens to say this: 58% of those ages 15 to 17 say it would be very or somewhat hard to give up social media, compared with 48% of those ages 13 to 14.

Teens are more likely to say social media has had a negative effect on others than on themselves. Some 32% say social media has had a mostly negative effect on people their age, while 9% say this about social media’s effect on themselves.

Conversely, teens are more likely to say these platforms have had a mostly positive impact on their own life than on those of their peers. About a third of teens (32%) say social media has had a mostly positive effect on them personally, while roughly a quarter (24%) say it has been positive for other people their age.

Still, the largest shares of teens say social media has had neither a positive nor negative effect on themselves (59%) or on other teens (45%). These patterns are consistent across demographic groups.

Teens are more likely to report positive than negative experiences in their social media use. Majorities of teens report experiencing each of the four positive experiences asked about: feeling more connected to what is going on in their friends’ lives (80%), like they have a place where they can show their creative side (71%), like they have people who can support them through tough times (67%), and that they are more accepted (58%).

When it comes to negative experiences, 38% of teens say that what they see on social media makes them feel overwhelmed because of all the drama. Roughly three-in-ten say it makes them feel like their friends are leaving them out of things (31%) or feel pressure to post content that will get lots of comments or likes (29%). And 23% say that what they see on social media makes them feel worse about their own life.

There are several gender differences in the experiences teens report having while on social media. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to say that what they see on social media makes them feel a lot like they have a place to express their creativity or like they have people who can support them. However, girls also report encountering some of the pressures at higher rates than boys. Some 45% of girls say they feel overwhelmed because of all the drama on social media, compared with 32% of boys. Girls are also more likely than boys to say social media has made them feel like their friends are leaving them out of things (37% vs. 24%) or feel worse about their own life (28% vs. 18%).

When it comes to abuse on social media platforms, many teens think criminal charges or permanent bans would help a lot. Half of teens think criminal charges or permanent bans for users who bully or harass others on social media would help a lot to reduce harassment and bullying on these platforms.

About four-in-ten teens say it would help a lot if social media companies proactively deleted abusive posts or required social media users to use their real names and pictures. Three-in-ten teens say it would help a lot if school districts monitored students’ social media activity for bullying or harassment.

Some teens – especially older girls – avoid posting certain things on social media because of fear of embarrassment or other reasons. Roughly four-in-ten teens say they often or sometimes decide not to post something on social media because they worry people might use it to embarrass them (40%) or because it does not align with how they like to represent themselves on these platforms (38%). A third of teens say they avoid posting certain things out of concern for offending others by what they say, while 27% say they avoid posting things because it could hurt their chances when applying for schools or jobs.

These concerns are more prevalent among older teen girls. For example, roughly half of girls ages 15 to 17 say they often or sometimes decide not to post something on social media because they worry people might use it to embarrass them (50%) or because it doesn’t fit with how they’d like to represent themselves on these sites (51%), compared with smaller shares among younger girls and among boys overall.

Many teens do not feel like they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling what information social media companies collect about them. Six-in-ten teens say they think they have little (40%) or no control (20%) over the personal information that social media companies collect about them. Another 26% aren’t sure how much control they have. Just 14% of teens think they have a lot of control.

Despite many feeling a lack of control, teens are largely unconcerned about companies collecting their information. Only 8% are extremely concerned about the amount of personal information that social media companies might have and 13% are very concerned. Still, 44% of teens say they have little or no concern about how much these companies might know about them.

Only around one-in-five teens think their parents are highly worried about their use of social media. Some 22% of teens think their parents are extremely or very worried about them using social media. But a larger share of teens (41%) think their parents are either not at all (16%) or a little worried (25%) about them using social media. About a quarter of teens (27%) fall more in the middle, saying they think their parents are somewhat worried.

Many teens also believe there is a disconnect between parental perceptions of social media and teens’ lived realities. Some 39% of teens say their experiences on social media are better than parents think, and 27% say their experiences are worse. A third of teens say parents’ views are about right.

Nearly half of parents with teens (46%) are highly worried that their child could be exposed to explicit content on social media. Parents of teens are more likely to be extremely or very concerned about this than about social media causing mental health issues like anxiety, depression or lower self-esteem. Some parents also fret about time management problems for their teen stemming from social media use, such as wasting time on these sites (42%) and being distracted from completing homework (38%).

Rubén Weinsteiner

domingo, 23 de abril de 2023

Public Awareness of Artificial Intelligence in Everyday Activities


 Rubén Weinsteiner

Limited enthusiasm in U.S. over AI’s growing influence in daily life (Pew Research Center illustration; all photos Getty Images)

MARCA POLITICA Research Center conducted this study to understand how aware Americans are of artificial intelligence in their daily lives. For this analysis, we surveyed 11,004 U.S. adults from Dec. 12-18, 2022.

Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Artificial intelligence is fast becoming a regular part of daily life, shaping the way Americans work, play and receive essential services from food deliveries to financial services to health care.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans are aware of common ways they might encounter artificial intelligence (AI) in daily life, such as customer service chatbots and product recommendations based on previous purchases. At the same time, only three-in-ten U.S. adults are able to correctly identify all six uses of AI asked about in the survey, underscoring the developing nature of public understanding.

Awareness of common uses of artificial intelligence is a first step toward broader public engagement with debates about the appropriate role – and boundaries – for AI. Experts have raised a host of moral, ethical and legal questions about the expanding capabilities of AI. And the ethical and responsible use of AI is a growing focus of research within the field.

The Pew Research Center survey of 11,004 U.S. adults, conducted Dec. 12-18, 2022, finds that 27% of Americans say they interact with AI at least several times a day, while another 28% think they interact with it about once a day or several times a week. On this self-reported measure, 44% think they do not regularly interact with AI.

More broadly, the public remains cautious about the impact artificial intelligence is having on American life: Just 15% say they are more excited than concerned about the increasing use of AI in daily life, compared with 38% who are more concerned than excited; 46% express an equal mix of concern and excitement. These views are about the same as they were in a November 2021 Center survey.

On a set of six questions designed to measure awareness of specific uses of AI in daily life, 68% of Americans correctly identified artificial intelligence at work in wearable fitness trackers that analyze exercise and sleeping patterns; the remainder of the public said they weren’t sure or selected one of three incorrect options that do not rely on AI (thermometers, at-home COVID-19 tests and pulse oximeters).

When it comes to an example of artificial intelligence in online shopping, 64% of U.S. adults correctly identified custom product recommendations based on previous purchases as using AI. Majorities were also aware that AI is at work in customer service chatbots (65%), security cameras that recognize faces (62%) and customized music playlist recommendations (57%).

The most challenging question for the public was identifying that email services categorizing messages as spam uses AI: 51% of Americans got this question right, while 49% chose an incorrect option, said they weren’t sure or did not answer. These six questions represent some common ways people could use AI in their lives but are not designed to be an exhaustive list of all the ways people could encounter AI. Each question had four possible responses and an explicit fifth option, “not sure.”

Taken together, 30% of Americans correctly answered all six questions about awareness of AI in everyday life (defined as a high level of awareness), 38% got three to five questions right (medium awareness) and 31% got two or fewer questions correct (low awareness). The mean number of correct answers was 3.7 out of 6.
Those with higher levels of education show greater awareness of AI

U.S. adults with higher levels of education and income are more aware of examples of AI in daily life than other adults. For example, 53% of Americans with a postgraduate degree correctly identified uses of artificial intelligence across all six multiple-choice questions. By contrast, just 14% of those with a high school diploma or less education answered all six questions correctly; 51% of this group had low awareness of AI, answering no more than two questions correctly.

Those with higher family incomes are also more aware of the uses of AI than those with lower incomes. About half of upper-income Americans had high awareness of AI (52%), compared with just 15% of lower-income adults.

Younger Americans are more aware of AI applications in daily life than older Americans. This pattern is especially pronounced when it comes to correctly identifying AI at play in customer service chatbots (75% of adults ages 18 to 29 said this vs. 45% of those 65 and older) and music playlist recommendations (65% vs. 39%).

Men scored higher on the scale than women. About four-in-ten men (38%) got all six questions right, compared with 23% of women. (Women are more likely than men to respond “not sure” to each of the six questions, consistent with previous research on both science and political knowledge.)

Partisan affiliation is not a major factor when it comes to awareness of AI: There are no meaningful differences between Republicans and Democrats on the AI awareness scale.
Frequent internet use is tied to higher awareness of artificial intelligence

Online applications and websites are places where Americans may frequently encounter artificial intelligence through examples such as customer service chatbots and product recommendations based on their purchasing behavior.

Adults who are frequent internet users score higher on the AI awareness scale than less frequent users.

Among Americans who say they are on the internet “almost constantly,” 38% got all six questions correct, as did 31% of those who say they use the internet several times a day. By comparison, just 6% of infrequent internet users (those who go online about once a day or less) correctly answered all six questions on the survey.

Not surprisingly, those who say they have heard more about artificial intelligence generally score higher on the AI awareness scale than do those who say they’ve heard less about this topic.
Majority of Americans think they interact with AI at least several times a week

About a quarter (27%) of Americans say they interact with artificial intelligence almost constantly or several times a day. Another 28% say they interact with AI about once a day or several times a week. On this self-reported measure, 44% of Americans estimate that they interact with AI less often.

Those with higher levels of education and family income are more likely than those with less education and income to say they interact with AI at least daily.

In addition, those who score high on a six-item scale of AI awareness are more likely to say they frequently interact with AI. For instance, 44% of those who have a high level of awareness of AI say they interact with AI almost constantly or several times a day. By comparison, just 12% of those who scored low on the scale say they interact with AI multiple times each day.
Many Americans have some level of concern about use of AI generally

The rapid development of artificial intelligence technologies has been accompanied by debate about ethics in AI and appropriate limits on its use.

Amid these ongoing discussions, the public strikes a cautious tone toward the overall impact of AI in society today.

On balance, a greater share of Americans say they are more concerned than excited about the increased use of artificial intelligence in daily life (38%) than say they are more excited than concerned (15%). Many express ambivalent views: 46% say they are equally concerned and excited.

Across all levels of awareness of AI, larger shares express greater concern than excitement about the impact of artificial intelligence in daily life. For example, among those who scored high in awareness of AI in daily life, 31% say they are more concerned than excited about the impact of AI, compared with 21% who say they are more excited than concerned. Those with medium or low AI awareness express greater concern than excitement by even wider margins. 



domingo, 2 de abril de 2023

Young Adults in Europe Are Critical of the U.S. and China – but for Different Reasons

Rubén Weinsteiner

Focus group findings from France, Germany and the United Kingdom

Pew Research Center has been conducting quantitative research on views of international cooperation, the United States and China over the past two decades. We held 12 focus groups from Nov. 8 to Nov. 18, 2022, in the capital cities of France (Paris), Germany (Berlin) and the United Kingdom (London), with four groups per country. Groups were organized by ideological affiliation – left or right – and views toward their own country’s involvement in world affairs – “internationally engaged” or “domestically focused”. See the Methodology for more information.

Focus groups were also held in the U.S. (Arlington, Virginia) in December 2022. For findings from discussions with young people in all four countries on international engagement and multilateralism, see

The conversations among group participants were video recorded, transcribed and translated. The final data sent to Pew Research Center was anonymized. The Center analyzed the transcripts (in English) for key themes. Our analysis is not a fact check of participants’ views.

While we do highlight sentiments expressed by individual participants in the report, they are meant to be representative of the themes discussed in the group more broadly. Nonetheless, quotations are not necessarily representative of the majority opinion in any particular group or country. Quotations may have been edited for grammar, spelling and clarity.

Young people ages 18 to 29 in British, French and German focus groups have few positive things to say about the United States or China as major players on the world stage. The U.S. is seen as the “world’s policeman” with a self-interested history of interventionism that is disappointing to Western allies, while China is labeled the “world’s factory,” respected for its economic dominance but strongly criticized for its expansionism and record of human rights violations.

“China is stronger in industry; the U.S. is stronger militarily.” Man, France, 27

In November 2022, Pew Research Center conducted focus group sessions among four distinct ideological groups in the capital cities of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The groups, which were convened to better understand how young people want their countries to engage with the world, revealed a series of nuanced and conflicting opinions about international engagement, the nature of that engagement, history and foreign policy priorities. But, when groups were asked to discuss the roles the U.S. and China play in global affairs and the international impact of their actions, the young participants expressed strong critiques of both major powers, regardless of country or ideological group.

China has received increasingly negative ratings in Pew Research Center surveys in Europe over the past few years, and the focus groups shed light on the deep concerns young people have about Beijing’s human rights record, China’s growing economic might and its policies in Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Focus group participants are largely pessimistic about future relations with China. But there is also a strong sense of pragmatism among these young adults who have largely resigned themselves to China’s economic power and see few, if any, ways to disentangle relations with China without collapsing their own economies.

America’s image in Europe has, in contrast, improved markedly in recent years, following the election of President Joe Biden. He is much more popular than his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and Biden’s more multilateralist approach to foreign policy is welcomed by most Europeans. And on a variety of survey questions we’ve asked in Europe over time – such as questions about human rights and which country should be the world’s leading power – the U.S. gets significantly higher marks than China.

Related: How Young Adults Want Their Country To Engage With the World

However, the focus groups reveal ongoing concerns about the way America has used its power in world affairs, often discussing U.S. actions abroad as a point of comparison with their own countries. Focus group participants echo a criticism of the U.S. we’ve regularly seen in our surveys: Most believe the U.S. does not take allies’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions. And participants are especially critical of U.S. military interventions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, echoing themes from survey research, some participants also express concerns about the state of American politics and society. Many suggest the U.S. has been hypocritical in the past, arguing for human rights and democracy abroad without fixing its problems at home.

Regardless of these criticisms, however, young Europeans want to engage and cooperate with the U.S., and they remain cautiously optimistic about the future of trans-Atlantic relations because the U.S. and Europe share fundamental democratic values. And, in many ways, the criticisms they levy against the U.S. are similar to ones that people – especially those on the left – have of their own government, too.
Young Europeans do not approve of the United States’ role as the “world’s policeman”

Though surveys find that majorities in France, Germany and the UK have favorable views of the U.S., America’s role on the world stage is described in mostly negative terms by the focus group participants. Across all three countries and four ideological groupings, young Europeans are steadfast in the opinion that the U.S. acts as the world’s policeman to the detriment of the world community. One young Briton said clearly, “I think on balance, [they] probably hurt more than they help.”

One French man said, “They’ve started wars that were completely illegal, against the opinion of the UN even, without any mandate.” A German woman added that the U.S. generally “finds themselves too great” and “interferes wherever they want, just because of their military power.” For his part, one young man in Germany noted that “a lot is swept under the carpet. They’ve got their fingers everywhere in the world. It’s not so clean.”

The United States’ actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its consequent withdrawal, were often pointed to as examples of this behavior. Majorities in each country considered the U.S. withdrawal poorly executed, according to Spring 2022 data from the Center, and the young people in the focus groups described both the withdrawal and the entire 20-year U.S. history in the country in forceful terms. One Briton framed it as “short-term help, long-term hurt.” Another French man said, “We saw with Iraq, they came in and left the country in ruins.” And a German man called the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan “a huge failure of a [20]-year long project. They just went away and the country was taken overnight.”

There was some reflection on the fact that each of these countries played their own role in Iraq and Afghanistan and have their own histories of military intervention. Still, the sense is that the charge was led by the U.S., as exemplified by a young Briton who said, in reference to his country’s presence in Iraq, “I think we can get influenced by larger countries, that we’re supposedly allies with, into conflicts that we shouldn’t really have involvement with.” Across the board, young people want to avoid military interventions, even among those eager for their countries to engage on the world stage. A young German woman questioned the extent to which intervening is beneficial, even “in countries where terrorism is high.”

Still, a few French individuals did highlight some of the potential benefits of American interventionism, focusing more on America as a strong power that can take forceful action. For example, noting U.S. support for Taiwan’s security, one French man said, “I think the only time the U.S. did well to intervene was regarding Taiwan … I think that if the U.S. hadn’t shown their support, Taiwan would have been part of China by now.” And one French woman shared respect for the idea of an “America first” policy,” suggesting it “is something France should do and be more strategic about.”

Disapproval of American interventionism among the focus group participants is tied clearly to their sense that U.S. actions abroad are self-interested. Center surveys have long found that people do not think the U.S. takes other countries’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions; this theme was on full display in the focus groups. One German woman said she has “the impression that the U.S. doesn’t cooperate with anybody.” A French woman added that American interventions “aren’t in cooperation, it’s just themselves” and a Briton called it “just a power thing.”

Critiques of U.S. interventionism are particularly strong among internationally engaged Europeans who called out hypocrisy in the United States’ practice of addressing issues around the world while failing to tackle social inequities at home. In recent years, Center surveys have shown that people from these countries do not see the U.S. as a positive actor or example on climate, health care or civil rights. Take, for example, a French woman who called the U.S. a bad example for “human rights, in general.” When asked why, she said “they’ve gone back on abortion rights.” Others called out the United States’ lack of climate action, high rates of gun violence, inequitable health care system or even the fact that schools in poor areas get less funding.

The focus groups’ discussions led to a common conclusion: Young people are eager to see their countries maintain a strong, more independent presence on the world stage without relying on policy cues from the U.S. When describing his wishes for the UK, one Briton said, “I guess it’s not being like America and trying to save everyone, but offering help to people in need and communicating, sharing intelligence and collaborating on things that are world issues, whether that’s climate change or something else.” For her part, a young German woman called cooperation with the U.S. “sometimes useless, except for defining how we definitely don’t want to act.”

Still, most in these countries see the U.S. as at least a somewhat reliable and important partner to their country. And while there is a desire to disentangle their policies and reputations from the U.S., young people maintain the expectation of some trans-Atlantic partnership. One German suggested that “in foreign policy, we should keep a healthy closeness to them, because they have a lot of influence in the whole world.” Similarly, though few like the way the U.S. has utilized its military strength, there is a shared sense that it is “the most powerful” and is important to have as an ally. A young German internationalist called it “quite useful” to have “the biggest military force … within the Western community.”

One pain point in relations with the U.S. that came up in each country was leadership. Confidence in the U.S. president reached historic or near historic lows in Center surveys during Trump’s four-year term. In focus groups, one Briton said he thought it was a joke “when the U.S. elected Trump.” A French man cited Trump’s presidency as reasoning for France to have a strong presence on the world stage saying they “would suffer the consequences of the choices of other powers, such as the U.S., as we saw with Donald Trump, we had a lot of difficulty dealing with him, even though his decisions had a direct impact on Europe.”

And, while confidence in the U.S. president jumped dramatically when Biden took office in 2021, it has since tempered, especially among young people. In Germany and France, those ages 18 to 29 are much less likely than those 50 or older to be confident in Biden’s leadership. While young adults are at least 30 percentage points more confident in Biden than they were in Trump in 2020, when the groups mentioned Biden, they often qualified their generally warm feelings with disappointment, with some suggesting he has done little to counteract Trump’s course. As one French respondent shared that, at this point, “I don’t even think U.S. policy changes that much when leaders change. It’s more the approach that changes but Biden won’t necessarily shift every policy.”
Young Europeans concerned by China’s power as the “world’s factory”

Whereas focus group participants heavily focused on the United States’ role as “the world’s policeman,” they discussed China more often as “the world’s factory.” This is driven by both its dominance in manufacturing and exporting goods as well as its investment and infrastructure building around the world. When surveyed, pluralities in Germany, France and the UK called China the world’s leading economic power over the U.S., European Union and Japan. Put simply, one French woman said, “Everything is Chinese.” Another Briton referenced China as “producers of technology and clothes” saying that “they have these giant industrial cities where they churn stuff out at a rate and price which other countries basically see as a deal that’s too good to refuse.” Technology emerged as a common thread in discussions about China’s production power, and multiple participants mentioned the role China plays in the manufacturing of technology products from American and European companies such as Apple and Nokia.

Young Europeans are also wary of China’s investment around the world. A German man said he “finds it extremely dangerous that they try to buy or build up infrastructure in every country. In Africa they are building roads, in Greece they have bought harbors and have agreed to assume Greece’s debts. And they have also tried to buy harbors in Germany.” This sort of lending was also an issue for a French woman who noted that “because they have money, they allow long loans in exchange for ports or infrastructure,” continuing that “there’s nothing fair and honorable in the way the government is managed.”

Underpinning the wariness of China’s economic dominance are severe critiques of the country on two fronts: domestic human rights abuses and military action in the South China Sea. In a 2021 survey, more than eight-in-ten Germans, Britons and French say China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people. This view was espoused by one young British woman who said, “What they do to Muslim people there, concentration camps and invading Hong Kong … I think they’re great in terms of commodities but crap in terms of human rights.” In a similar vein, a French man said he thinks of China as “a dictatorship, which carried out a genocide on its own soil.”

The same man noted that China “wants to invade Taiwan …, contests the statue of Hong Kong [and] Macau” and that “it doesn’t have any legitimacy to intervene.” Unlike the U.S., China’s military was rarely mentioned. When participants did bring up the Chinese military, it was often in reference to Taiwan. A British man shared his view, saying that in “situations sort of like China and Taiwan, everyone’s too afraid to get involved … and Taiwan is this tiny little piece of land where China is doing ballistic missile tests every week now just to show their strength.”

There is agreement that these actions are bad but many young participants, particularly those on the ideological left, are clear that their own countries and the U.S. are not above the same criticisms. A French man said “we blame them for things we do ourselves, we blame [them] for their aggression towards certain countries, which is true, but we are also very aggressive, we wage war to many countries in the West more generally.”

When asked to look toward the future and consider their countries’ ongoing relationships with China, the young focus group participants acknowledge the struggle of balancing China’s human rights track record with their economic power. In fact, when asked to choose between promoting human rights in China regardless of economic consequence and prioritizing economic relations over addressing human rights issues in a recent survey, majorities in each of these countries chose the former. Some are optimistic that their country could, to some degree, achieve this through multilateralism and strengthening economic ties with other major actors, like the U.S. A French man noted that “facing against China could be complicated,” suggesting that his country “could get closer to key institutions, the EU for example, to try to have more power, among others, to try and change the balance a bit, because France alone wouldn’t have much impact against … the force of the Chinese economy.”

More commonly, participants feel that some morally driven stand against China would be nice, but when asked to describe how that would happen, they acknowledge that untying their countries and themselves from China economically is not a pragmatic goal. Put simply by a young British man: “It’s quite easy to point fingers but once again, what would we actually do without them?” Another Briton called the price of material goods coming from China “a deal that’s too good to refuse.” A German man posited that “if [China] were to sanction, then the German economy would crash from one day to the next and also many other countries, because a lot comes from China.” In that vein, some level of cooperation with China seems to be just as inevitable as partnership with the U.S. to young Europeans. 

Rubén Weinsteiner