Pew: GOP and Dems Out of Touch with Base Voters on Trade

November 19, 2014


The elite punditry predict kum-bay-ah bipartisanship predicted between Obama and the GOP on job-killing trade deals.  But this official at the Pew Research Center reveals that any such collaboration is, instead, evidence of politicians out of touch with their base.

Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew, wrote this for Politico.

If and when the new Congress considers implementing legislation for the TPP, that legislative fight might expose the dirty little secret of current American trade politics: both Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to be out of touch with their own political bases on trade issues.

The conventional Washington narrative on trade is that Democrats are protectionists and Republicans are free traders. But Pew Research Center data suggests this perception might be more reflective of interest group politics on Capitol Hill—where big business backs Republicans and organized labor supports Democrats—than it is of the inclinations of Republicans and Democrats within the general public.

The contrast among conservatives is particularly striking. The Pew Research Center political typology survey, published in June, found that 51 percent of socially conservative populists say trade agreements are bad for the country, compared to 39 percent who say they are good. Highlighting the tension within GOP ranks, business conservatives, by a margin of 68 percent to 24 percent, say such deals are good for the United States. ...

A separate Pew Research poll found that similar shares of both Republicans and Democrats are more or less in agreement that trade destroys jobs (54 percent in the GOP say so, and 50 percent of Democrats) and lowers wages (44 percent in the GOP and 49 percent of Democrats). Moreover, one of the TPP’s main goals is to spur foreign investment. On that score, Republicans are more wary than Democrats: 75 percent in the GOP think foreign companies buying U.S. companies is bad for the country, compared with 66 percent of Democrats.

President Obama and the Republican congressional leadership have both suggested that trade is one issue that they might be able to agree upon in the new Congress. Yet the views of average Americans suggest this could prove more complicated that it appears inside the Beltway—especially if politicians ignore what the numbers really say about what Americans believe.

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