What Americans really think, what politicians say, and how Congress votes on trade – it might not surprise you that these don’t always line up.
Working class Americans have been unable to compete for jobs demanding specialized technical skills, while the places they live have been hollowed out by shifts in global supply chains and the death of low-skilled manufacturing. So long as these workers feel left out of the economic mainstream, they will remain a potent political force, including in the upcoming 2020 election.
Most Americans feel uncertain about the benefits of trade and trade policies for our own communities. In national polls, the higher the level of uncertainty, the increased likelihood individuals will check the “I don’t know” box.
New public opinion research shows that the majority of Americans worry the tariffs will do more harm than good for the economy.
It would be a guessing game to try to predict what the president might do specifically on trade in 2018. Whatever he decides, there are trends morphing the trading system even as the U.S. Government works to figure out its role in shaping it.
One group of supporters — Millennials — may shape public sentiment and policy about the topic in surprising ways.
While the 2016 presidential election was not about trade per se, it is clear that new U.S. political leadership and many in the American public would like to look at trade differently – a change in perspective, if you will – including who we do trade deals with, whether trade deficits or surpluses matter, and whether Congress or the Administration is in the driver’s seat on trade.
Mr. Trump ran on a platform that rejects the notion that trade agreements have worked to America’s favor. He promised some major reversals of trade policies. Will he dump trade?
Politicians critical of trade and globalization often point to the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs as proof positive of America’s dwindling economic might. But the story of U.S. manufacturing shouldn’t begin and end with that single statistic. The true state of U.S. manufacturing is far more complicated – but also more hopeful.
While anti-trade rhetoric has been a regular feature of the U.S. political landscape, opinion polls show that Americans are not in fact generally opposed to trade or trade agreements with other nations.