Om Making Sense of Anti-Trade Sentiment
Opinion polls indicate that a considerable portion of the U.S. public holds negative views of international trade. The extent of anti-trade sentiment exhibited by the American public is largely out of step with public opinion elsewhere in the world. In fact, the U.S. may be one of the most trade-wary societies. Worries that trade, particularly increased imports, will lead to job loss and/or reduced wages for domestic workers are thought to underlie the negative views. Examining the extent to which trade adversely affects domestic workers, White documents statistical relationships between exports and imports and domestic employment/wages; however, the magnitudes of the estimated effects appear too small to justify public opinion on the topic. To better understand U.S. public opinion of international trade, and to explain why Americans are, in general, less supportive of trade, the author considers loss-aversion, incomplete/imperfect information, and the ability to process information as possible alternative explanations.