Sunday, September 25, 2016

Who Supports Free Trade (You Might Be Surprised)

The general belief is that Republicans are in favor of free trade and Democrats are against it. And in Congress, that is how it has worked. Congressional Republicans have voted to support free trade agreements, and any opposition to those agreements has come from congressional Democrats.

But this may surprise you -- the bases of both parties don't necessarily agree with their congressional representatives. Only 18% of Republicans say free trade has helped, while 47% say it has hurt. For Democrats, 24% say it has hurt, while 33% say it has helped. That seems backward, and it surprises me.

Now you might think the party with a plurality favoring free trade would not be worried about the growing income equality (since free trade helps the rich) -- and the party with a plurality opposing free trade would want action taken to reduce the income gap. But that would be too simple, and untrue.

It turns out that 86% of Democrats (who have a plurality supporting free trade) believe the huge income gap is a serious problem, and 61% want Congress to take action to narrow the gap. On the other hand, only 50% of Republicans (who have a plurality opposing free trade) think the income gap is a serious problem, and only 17% want Congress to take action to narrow it.

The charts above are from the recent Politico / Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Survey -- done between August 31st and September 4th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3.7 points.

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