Americans Think China Has the World's Largest Economy

And they're wrong

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Who's got the world's largest economy: China or the United State? If you ask Americans, nearly half of them think it's China while only one in five say the United States. If you ask economists--or any other authoritative source on the subject--you know that most Americans are wrong, the U.S. is still number one. These latest polling results come from the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll. Here's how pundits are swallowing the news:

  • C'mon People, We're Not That Weak, writes David Harsanyi at Town Hall:

Yes, we're a bit pessimistic these days, but let's not get fatalistic. You don't have to have blind faith in American exceptionalism to know that the U.S. economy, even with the tribulations of the recent years, is still the richest and most productive and innovative power in the world. The private sector isn't collapsing (though we've certainly hit a bump); others just happen to be gaining on us.

  • Here's Why Americans Are So Confused, explains Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect:

As a rule, people are inclined to see most things as a zero-sum game. Other countries are becoming richer, so by definition, the United States is becoming poorer. Of course, the world isn't zero-sum, at least when it comes to the global economy. China is growing, yes, but not to the detriment of the United States. ... As for why Americans are anxious? Wage stagnation, income inequality, and a terrible recession might have something to do with it.

  • China's Not First--But They Will Be  "Economic data points out that the U.S. remains the world's economic driver," writes Rick Smith at Local Tech Wire, "but there is no doubt China is growing rapidly and is expected to be No. 1 in the not too distant future. The lackluster recovery from the recession with unemployment closing in on 10 percent in the U.S. certainly supports the poll’s bleak findings."
  • China's Not Even Close, writes Matt Yglesias at Think Progress, if you're looking at per capita GDP:

Note that China is not only poorer than the USA, it's poorer than Ecuador. It’s about half as rich as Uruguay or Belarus. Trinidad has about triple the per capita GDP of China. I think it's probably true that average living standards in America are no longer the highest in the world, but we're being beat by the likes of Norway, Switzerland, and the Netherlands not by China. But who knows? Maybe "stronger" just means "growing really fast" in which case China is, in fact, growing really fast.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.