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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