Why Voters Don’t Buy It When Economists Say Global Trade Is Good

New York Times: “In the United States, most top economists agree that ‘past major trade deals have benefited most Americans’ and that ‘trade with China makes most Americans better off.’ But those aren’t sentiments we will be hearing anytime soon from Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton.”

Why do so many Americans disagree with top economists?

“For an economist, one natural hypothesis to entertain is that people’s attitudes toward globalization are based on their self-interest… After analyzing their survey data on individuals’ attitudes and attributes, these political scientists [Edward Mansfield and Diana Mutz] conclude that voters embrace policies based on the broader national interest. This theory is called sociotropic voting… The data analysis of Mr. Mansfield and Ms. Mutz suggests that skepticism about trade and outsourcing is closely related to three other sets of beliefs.”

“The first is isolationism more broadly. Trade skeptics tend to think, for example, that the United States should stay out of world affairs and avoid getting involved in foreign conflicts. They are not eager for the United States to work with other nations to solve global problems like hunger and pollution.”

“The second is nationalism. Trade skeptics tend to think that the United States is culturally superior to other nations. They say the world would be better if people elsewhere were more like Americans.”
“The third is ethnocentrism. Trade skeptics tend to divide the world into racial and ethnic groups and think that the one they belong to is better than the others. They say their own group is harder-working, less wasteful and more trustworthy.”



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  • pisher

    And these are LEFT-WING attitudes? PROGRESSIVE attitudes? Socialism means economic nationalism, mingled with a bit of half-hearted ethnocentrism? SINCE WHEN?

    This was one of the things that really turned me off Bernie Sanders. I don’t think it came from any deep conviction on his part, either. I think he has deep convictions (unlike Trump), but in this case he was just finding that the more he talked against trade deals, the better the response he got. Criticism of trade deals is fine–but when you start talking about getting rid of them–or pretending you can craft one that will make everybody happy–you’re getting off into Cloud Cuckooland. Hillary had to roll with that, just to make sure she won. But she’s no ideologue, and she’s no demagogue either. She actually understands how this stuff works.

    We live in a global economy, a global community. What other nations do impacts us, what we do impacts them, there is nothing anybody can do about that. We can’t just shut the gates and bolt them and live happily ever after. It isn’t an option on the table. We will face our problems as at least a relatively unified species, or we will go extinct.

  • ultragreen

    The NYT, as usual, completely misses the point. People are hostile to global trade deals because they make it easier for the rich and their transnational corporations to: 1) lower the wages of workers, especially in developed countries, 2) avoid paying taxes, 3) avoid environmental and safety regulations, and 4) increase their profits as a result of #1, #2, and #3.

    At least for leftists who oppose these corporate-approved trade deals, isolationism, nationalism, and ethnocentrism, as suggested by the NYT, have nothing to do with it.

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