5 May 2016

54% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans say free trade has been bad for US


Both Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump from the populist right have attacked free trade agreements during the contests for their parties’ nominations. Opposition to free current free trade deals was a key part of Mr Trump’s message to the voters of Indiana. Earlier this week he talked of China “raping” America through trade and has previously called the North American Free Trade Agreement a “horrible deal”. Senator Sanders has called the Trans-Pacific Partnership ““a disastrous trade agreement to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.” Sanders’ surprise victory in Michigan owed much to his hard-hitting anti-trade message.

And a new poll by YouGov for CapX, undertaken on Tuesday, finds that both Sanders and Trump are tapping into a very strong public mood. We asked the First Verdict panel to evaluate whether “free trade agreements” had been good for US consumers, US workers and, also, US prosperity as a whole. The panel gave a thumbs down to free trade on all three fronts – even rejecting the idea that free trade had produced “cheaper and better value goods” by 45% to 38%. By 72% to 13% the First Verdict panel believes that free trade had largely “destroyed jobs and opportunities” and by 56% to 23% the majority thought free trade had been, “on balance”, “bad for US prosperity”.

It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton has zig-zagged away from her previous position on trade. It is perhaps more surprising that Republicans are more opposed to free trade than Democrats. Democrats think free trade agreements have been bad for US prosperity by a margin of 54% to 26%. Independents by 51% to 23%. Republicans think they have been bad by a margin of 65% to 21%. When you see results like this you begin to find Trump’s nomination less surprising.

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As we have found in previous Portrait of America surveys, the US voter is in a interventionist mood.

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

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Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America