Monday, April 21, 2008

Trade Politics: Public Opinion

Do the American People believe that current trade policies are good for the U.S.?

The public is split on trade, and different questions elicit different answers. With most ways of asking the question, at least half of poll respondants believe that current trade policies are bad for the U.S. economy. The trend over the last few years is towards more opposition to trade.

However, many people have no idea what is going on. For instance, a 2007 Pew survey found that only 68 percent of Americans were aware that the United States had a trade deficit, down from 81 percent who knew of the deficit in 1989. (

A selection of illustrative poll results.

Last October (2007) 59 percent of Republicans agreed with this statement:

"Statement B: Foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy, because imports from abroad have reduced demand for American-made goods, cost jobs here at home, and produced potentially unsafe products."

In March 2008, 58 percent of respondants selected the "bad" option on this poll question: "Do you think the fact that the American economy has become increasingly global is good because it has opened up new markets for American products and resulted in more jobs, or bad because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor?"

Ten years ago, only 48 percent selected the "bad" option.

Source: NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). March 7-10, 2008. N=approx. 500 registered voters nationwide.

In April 2006, 50 percent of respondants selected the "hurts" option on this poll question:
"Do you believe increased trade between the United States and other countries mostly helps or mostly hurts American companies?"

In 1999, only 39 percent of respondants selected the "hurts" option.

USA Today/Gallup Poll. April 7-9, 2006. N=1,004 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

See also:

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