Economy

Americans Remain Upbeat About Foreign Trade

Americans Remain Upbeat About Foreign Trade
by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • Majority of Americans continue to see trade as an opportunity
  • Starkly different views of trade among educational groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A majority of Americans (58%) continue to see foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports, while about one in three (34%) see such trade as a threat to the economy. After nearly a decade of more skeptical views, Americans have viewed foreign trade positively since 2013.

Trend: What Americans Think Foreign Trade Means for the U.S.

The latest results, from a Feb. 3-7 Gallup poll, follow the signing earlier this month of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional trade agreement in U.S. history. Americans' views on foreign trade have not changed since last year.

During the initial debate last year, some of the biggest opponents of the TPP were Democratic U.S. senators, who did not support President Barack Obama's efforts to secure the agreement with 11 other countries. But the senators' opposition to the TPP isn't consistent with the views of rank-and-file Democrats. Identical majorities of Democrats and independents have viewed foreign trade as an economic opportunity over the last two years: 61% in 2015 and 63% in the latest poll.

Meanwhile, about half of Republicans view foreign trade as an opportunity -- similar to their views since 2013. Republicans were a bit more enthusiastic about foreign trade during the first half of George W. Bush's presidency than during the second half of his presidency and now under Obama. They were the party group most likely to view foreign trade as an opportunity until 2012. Although Bush initiated the framework of the TPP agreement that Obama has brought to Congress, rank-and-file Republicans may have lost enthusiasm for foreign trade under the leadership of a Democratic president.

Trend: View Foreign Trade Mainly as an Opportunity for the U.S. -- by Party ID

Higher-Educated Americans More Likely to See Trade as Opportunity

Gallup's trend since 2001 has consistently found that the most educated Americans are most likely to view foreign trade as an economic opportunity for the U.S., while those with some college or a high school diploma are less likely to see foreign trade the same way.

Trend: View Foreign Trade Mainly as an Opportunity for the U.S. -- by Education

Bottom Line

Americans' views on foreign trade have been in flux over the past couple of decades, and the public has often been split in its perspective on whether trade is valuable to the U.S. economy. In recent years, as the economy has emerged from the 2007-2009 recession, Americans have once again come to view foreign trade as an opportunity that will bring an economic benefit.

Despite a recently widened trade deficit, Americans' assessments of the value of foreign trade remain unchanged compared with recent years, and match the optimism of last year. If the TPP, the United States' largest trade deal to date, receives congressional approval, Americans' views of foreign trade may be tested as it begins to take effect -- depending on the agreement's net benefit to the United States.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 3-7, 2016, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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