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Scott Lincicome @scottlincicome
, 20 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Out today! My new, chart-rich paper on trade, globalization & US public opinion:…
So now a thread on why I wrote this paper - the data for which were surprisingly difficult to gather (thanks, @pewresearch, @Gallup, @ChicagoCouncil, etc for the help!) - and what it reveals /2
The malleability of US public opinion on trade is something I first noticed years ago (and briefly discussed in this paper from 2011:…). Trade polls have long fluctuated depending on politics, rhetoric & the economy. /3
So you can imagine my frustration in 2016 when it was reported as a given that the USA was now protectionist, bc a few polls in the heat of the campaign showed Americans (esp Republicans) souring on trade/FTAs. This assumption continued in 2017-18, even among trade wonks /4
Indeed, just a few weeks ago, I was speaking at @DukeU & my co-panelist - the very smart Prof. Rachel Brewster - repeated the conventional wisdom about some sort of bottom-up American revolt against globalization. She was surprised to learn (from me) that IT'S JUST NOT TRUE. /5
So, I set about to document the 3 main ways that the CW was wrong, using as many recent (since 2016) polls as I could find:

First, polls uniformly show that trade & globalization are #actually VERY popular right now - basically more popular than ever (even among the GOP): /6
Second, polls also show that voters are highly ambivalent/ignorant about trade policy - it is consistently (and by large margins!) the issue in which voters express the *least* amount of interest/intensity/knowledge: /7
(This, of course, makes perfect sense: trade is complicated & often counterintuitive, and most Americans aren't involved in trade-heavy jobs/sectors or just don't think - rightly or wrongly - that trade impacts them much) /8
Third, and likely because of point 2, trade polls fluctuate a lot - again more than polls on most other issues - depending on (1) the economy; and (2) partisanship (especially in the Trump Era!). When the economy's bad, everyone's a little more protectionist (unsurprisingly). /9
More important, though, are the shifts among Rs/Ds based on who's running for, or holding, office. In 2007-8, as W was pushing FTAs & Obama/Hillary were trade-skeptics, Ds weren't high on trade. Then, R/D switched as Obama pushed TPP and, of course, Trump emerged: /10
(Indies, however, have steadily become more pro-trade - see pt 1. The only surprise, which isn't that surprising once you see what's coming next, is how GOP support for trade is again on the upswing. Sweet charts here, btw.)
The partisan shifts/effects are even more pronounced on specific trade issues like NAFTA or tariffs, which basically mirror presidential approval/disapproval. These wonky issues are really just a proxy for Trump: /11
(And, no, this doesn't mean a bunch of intense protectionists suddenly became Republicans. Sure, that probably happened a little, BUT the pro-tariff polls also show GOPers supporting FTAs, which reduce tariffs, now that their guy Trump's doing them. Ergo, mostly tribalism.) /12
Finally, in reading all of these polls, I discovered another really interesting fourth point: Americans' views on specific trade issues change a lot when poll questions include actual/specific implications of protectionism (e.g., higher costs, retaliation, etc) /13
For example, when asked whether they want to buy "made-in-USA" products, most Americans say yes, but this support drops a LOT when there's a price-tag, even just 5% extra. Tariff support, meanwhile, drops when inevitable/actual costs or retaliation/trade wars are mentioned /14
(This is also consistent with reality: a recent study showed that Americans in Trump Country aren't actually following his rhetorical lead and avoiding imports.) /15
Since my paper's been finished (late summer), I've noticed that pretty much any new poll that has come out on trade has followed these 4 rules - just check the questions; check the partisan crosstabs; and it's all the same stuff, over & over. /16
These four rules also allow for important lessons: 1) "to the extent there is a protectionist problem in the United States, it originates in our political class, not the American electorate"; contrary to CW, there is simply NO anti-globalization mandate in the USA; /17
2) building public support for free trade shld avoid the partisanship & focus on real-world implications of the only alternative - protectionism. Higher costs, hurt companies/workers, closed foreign markets - these all move the needle, as even Trump seems to recognize. /18
So, with that long summary out of the way, I hope you take a sec to read the whole thing:…

Enjoy! 19/19
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