December 13, 1994

Trade and the Public

By Andrew Kohut, Director, Times Mirror Center for The People & The Press and Robert C. Toth

Summary

Polls consistently show the American public to be two-minded about trade.  But common wisdom is reversed on this issue.  Instead of being ideologically conservative and operationally liberal, the public is ideologically liberal about international trade — in favor of free trade in principal — and operationally conservative.  It complains that some jobs and products need to be protected, with the emphasis hugely on jobs.  It is willing to put much of the blame for an economic slowdown on foreign competition, and willing to charge that some foreign countries engage in unfair trade practices.