Friday, March 13, 2009

Americans least likely to favor free trade

According to a Pew Global Attitudes Survey that came out in June 2008 majorities in countries as diverse as Pakistan, Nigeria, China and the US support free trade. More:
Majorities in all 24 nations surveyed say increasing trade and economic integration is a good thing for their countries. In fact, enthusiasm for trade is pervasive in a number of countries and not just in nations such as China, where there is widespread satisfaction with the economy. By contrast, of the countries surveyed, the U.S. is the least supportive of trade.

While enthusiasm for trade is broad based, some publics are more convinced of its value than others. For example, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians (91%) say increased trade ties are either “very good” or “somewhat good,” with six-in-ten (59%) saying “very.” Large percentages of other publics also feel strongly about such ties; more than four-in-ten in Pakistan, South Africa, India, Tanzania and Lebanon say increased trade is “very good."
The fact that the US comes last doesn't fit my priors, but there's no deny it. I know many Americans oppose free trade, and appeal to the prejudice is an easy way for a politician to stir up support. But when you compare trade barriers across different countries you find that the U.S. has some of the lowest. (At least I believe that to be the case.) You'd think, then, that in countries with high trade barriers, public support for free trade would be lower. It seems the U.S. is highly open to trade in spite of a substantial minority who oppose it.



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