The prolonged trade dispute between China and the US is having significant knock-on effects in terms of consumer sentiment and spending behaviour in both countries, a new study has revealed.

According to Brunswick Group, the international advisory firm, the second wave of its US-China Trade Tracker has confirmed high levels of pessimism among consumers about the consequences of the dispute.

Based on an online survey of 2,000 American and Chinese consumers (1,000 each) and conducted in mid-October, the report followed up on Brunswick’s first wave of research in early June, which had registered a marked hardening of sentiment among Chinese consumers.

Brunswick’s latest report, however, has shown that the American public has now become more pessimistic about how they view China, its companies and the bilateral relationship between the world’s two biggest economies.

Among the comprehensive findings, the report found there is growing opposition towards close business and economic ties between the two countries, with 58% of Chinese consumers agreeing that Chinese companies should invest less in the US, while 52% of US consumers think the same about US investment in China.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of US consumers say they want to see US companies stand up for American values, even if that means sacrificing growth and sales in China, while 60% say US companies should move their operations and supply chains out of the country.

Interestingly, majorities of consumers in both China (62%) and the US (54%) believe the trade dispute is no longer just about trade but rather is about ideological and political differences.

And while consumers still support collaboration in this tense environment, opinions are trending in a negative direction. For example, the proportion of Americans who agree that greater collaboration is in the interests of both countries declined 11 percentage points to 72% since the previous research in June, while China registered a four percentage point fall to 88%.

Elsewhere, half (51%) of Chinese consumers say they are purchasing more from Chinese brands because of trade tensions, while a similar proportion (48%) have avoided buying from a US brand over the past three months. And nearly two-thirds (64%) say they are now less likely to travel to the US.

However, majorities in both China (84%) and the US (67%) agree that US-China tariffs are causing them to pay higher prices on imported goods – and they also share concerns about the trade dispute’s impact on their national economies (78% in China versus 69% in the US).

Sourced from Brunswick Group; additional content by WARC staff