According to The Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling, since November 2014 public opinion on whether free trade with foreign countries helps or hurts the US have been in flux, corresponding with a national debate over a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact with 11 other select Asian and Pacific Rim countries that Congress has been struggling to pass.
As the Senate holds a crucial procedural vote on granting President Obama fast-track trade authority to negotiate the pact today, here are a few interesting findings and data from the trio of tracks tested over the last seven months with comparative data from 2010.
- In the WSJ/NBC April poll, a plurality (37%) of adults said free trade with foreign countries has “helped” the US while 31% said it has “hurt” the US. That was the most positive opinion had been on this question since 1999. In June, the topline result snapped back to a net negative – 29% helped/34% Hurt.
- As the charts below shows, Republicans are more likely now to say has “hurt” the U.S. than in April. So are Democrats, though we still see a plurality of Democrats in April saying free trade has “helped.”
- Interestingly, core partisans on each side, those are respondents that “strongly” identify as either party, are about in the same place – hovering around an even split between these two positions. Soft partisans for each side, consisting of those who identify as a party but “not-so-strongly” and independent leaners, are much further from one another. On this broad question, Independents the most negative political sub-set.
In terms of public policy, this is an unusual way for the data to be structured and it points to how different this issue may play than the normal partisan-driven battles our politics have been dominated by recently.
- Higher income and higher education respondents are more likely to see free trade with foreign countries as helping the U.S.
- Respondents who report being or living with union members are consistently pessimistic. In this month’s poll 23% of union households say free trade has helped and 45% say it has hurt the US – which is more negative than opinions held by respondents from union households in April (31% helped/41% hurt).