U.S., CHINA, AND WILDLY WRONG PERCEPTIONS…. With news today that China now has a larger economy than Japan, Gallup has an interesting new poll showing Americans’ perceptions of global economic powerhouses. Unfortunately, the perceptions aren’t even close to being right.

By 52% to 32%, Americans are more likely to name China than the United States as the leading economic power in the world today, with Japan a distant third at 7%. This is China’s strongest lead on this Gallup measure, first asked in 2000, and is a major change from 2009, when China and the U.S. were nearly tied in Americans’ perceptions about the leading power. […]

China is enjoying explosive economic growth and, as a result, has made impressive gains in the rank-order of national economies in the past decade. However, the Gallup data suggest Americans may not be aware that, on the basis of GDP, China’s economy still trails the United States’.

“May not be aware” seems like a dramatic understatement. Gallup asked respondents, “Which one of the following do you think is the leading economic power in the world today: the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, or India?” A majority chose China, with the U.S. as a distant second.

This tends to annoy the White House, and with good reason — it’s completely wrong.

As of today, China has a $5.88 trillion economy, edging past Japan’s $5.47 trillion economy. The United States, meanwhile, has an economy of over $14 trillion. It’s larger than China’s and Japan’s put together, and then some.

Americans live in easily the largest economic powerhouse on the planet, but they just don’t realize it. President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, “[T]he world has changed; the competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us — it should challenge us. Remember, for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.”

Either most Americans didn’t hear him or they didn’t believe him. It’s a shame — what Obama said happens to be true.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.