Free Trade

Trump Is Shifting American's Views on Trade, But Not the Way He Wants

A new poll shows Americans (including Republicans) are rejecting Trump's nationalist view of global trade.


Donald Trump's time in office appears to have shifted Americans' views on how their country interacts with the world, but not in a way the president would like. Two years after electing a man who promised to build walls and tear up trade deals, a greater share of Americans believe that the country should be welcoming to foreigners and that trade is beneficial.

This bit of good news is delivered via the most recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans this month by asking a variety of questions about international affairs. Compared to a similar poll run by the same pollsters in June 2016—just after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and just as Trump was wrapping up the GOP nomination—the new poll shows that "Americans' appetite for anti-globalist rhetoric appears to be on the wane," in the words of Ariel Edwards-Levy, HuffPost's polling editor.

The shift on trade is particularly remarkable. Trump stormed into office promising to slap tariffs on imports and to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement. Two years later, Trump's tariffs have become a drag on the economy, and Congress will soon consider a NAFTA rewrite that raises barriers to continental trade—though it's not as bad as some free traders initially feared, and NAFTA still remains in place (for now).

As the president tried to slow foreign trade, Americans decided they actually like it more than they thought:


If you need another reason to be heartened by these numbers, consider that the biggest shift in support for free trade comes from self-identified Republicans—a direct rebuke to the president's trade agenda.

I can see a couple possible explanations for this shift in views. The most obvious is that Trump continues to be a deeply unpopular president in most of the country, and even within some typically conservative demographics. Any policy being pushed by an unpopular president is likely to become more unpopular with the general public simply for having his name attached to it—ironic, perhaps, considering how much of Trump's fame is linked to him literally attaching his name to things. And if those policies pushed by an unpopular president also happen to increase costs and trigger job losses, well, that's only going to accelerate voters' shift to the opposite side.

Beyond that, most Americans simply didn't think much about trade issues before the past few months. Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and a trade attorney, highlighted this reality in a paper published in November. Because most Americans don't have strong opinions about trade policy—as opposed to, say, gun rights or abortion—trade views tend to be both strongly partisan and not particularly strongly held, Linicicome argued. In other words, most voters go along with whatever their favored political party thinks about trade issues, but those opinions can be subject to change because they're not deeply held.

Pointing to data from recent Pew surveys, Lincicome concluded that Americans were not turning against free trade en masse.

The new HuffPost/YouGov poll suggests the same thing, but perhaps provides even better news for free traders: Now that they have been subjected to months of presidential tweets about tariffs, exaggerations (and outright lies) about the benefits of the White House's trade war, and news stories detailing the reality of the situation, Americans are thinking more about trade than they have in a long time. And they've decided that for the most part, they like it.

NEXT: You Can't Have #MeToo Without Free Speech. Just Ask Australians.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Fake news!!!” — lc1789 and John.

    1. Damn it! I was gonna say that!

    2. Look! The original “Deep Throat” commenter sock.

  2. While trade agreements need to be renegotiated on a timely basis, most people realize that insisting everything be manufactured locally is a stupid idea.

    1. What… You are not a fan of Alaskan sugar or Washington DC bear jerky?

  3. Why do we think Trump cares? He will just shift his opinion.

  4. Had to stop reading when you referenced HuffPost as source of poll. I trust no polls, but especially not the polls conducted by a group looking for nothing more than “confirmation bias”. If the HuffPost poll showed Trump is greatest President that ever lived, do you believe HuffPost would report that? Yes, I like the results of this poll, and whole-heartedly believe Trump is wrong on trade and immigration, but I have to question the source.

    1. Of course Boehmber considers the HuffPo an authoritative, unbiased source of information.

      Because just like his bosses, Boehmer is an Osama Obama yo momma the llama mofo mofo mufaletta momma.

    2. Boehm is so intellectually dishonest that he wont even cite a counter poll from a more conservative source when he cites a Lefty rag like Huffpost.

      At least with two polls from both sides the spectrum, we would know without a shadow of doubt that Boehm is full of shit.

  5. Public understanding of complex issues is explainable by polls, results of which are presented in multi-colored graphs.

    Wishes of poll takers are presented in the same way.

  6. Trump continues to be a deeply unpopular president in most of the country

    Is there a citation for this or do we just assume that Boehm and his mom like Trump less than any other president in history?

    Seriously, his cumulative average is worse, but his moving average is on par with ‘popular’ presidents (all 2-term presidents) like presidents like Clinton, Reagan, and Obama.

    1. He tends to be deeply unpopular with leftist hack writers.

      1. +100

  7. This is another good result of the Trump presidency. Free trade was typically a losing issue but now Democrats want it because Trump wants to use trade restrictions to improve global trading rules (something every other admin has said they would do but were too soft to try). If free trade ever had majority support then there would be more of it.

    This goes along with probably best and most predictable outcome of electing Trump — a weakening of the Presidency in favor of Congress. As soon as we put in someone not “in the club”, Article I gets rediscovered.

    1. This is my hope but I worry that because Trump is the “worst ever” that Congress will just return to the status quo when he leaves the oval office.

  8. The most obvious is that Trump continues to be a deeply unpopular president in most of the country, and even within some typically conservative demographics.

    A quick search indicates Trump is about as “deeply unpopular” as Obama, Clinton and Gerald Ford were at this point in their presidencies and somewhat more popular than Ronald Reagan and Harry S Truman were.

    Fact checker’s ruling: FAKE NEWS from Eric “Enemy of the People” Broheim

    1. If presidential popularity is measured by how much people pay attention to him daily, then Trump is probably the most popular president ever.

      The majority of states voted for Trump to be president by a good margin. If anything that has grown. We dont know for sure because Lefty polling never wants to know that answer. They do polls for confirmation bias purposes.

  9. Poor Boehm and his daily sad that Trump is getting more popular generally, his policies of “putting America first” are very popular, and trading partners are caving to move toward less trade restrictions.

  10. Well, if The Huffington Post says it, it HAS to be true.

  11. The Beltway-tarians at Reason and Cato just don’t get it. True Americans don’t want help from foreigners who seek to undercut quality American production with their weak standards and work ethic. Flyover country knows that we are much better off rejecting exchange with those who simply want to use our nation as pawns in their socialist One World game.

    Real libertarianism means rugged individualism based in the most Hooverian traditions. Close up the borders. Let the economy suffer for a few years or a decade to cleanse it from lefty influence. Then watch America prosper as it rebuilds its own industry from the ground up.

  12. MAGA!

    China buys US soybeans

    “The country’s finance ministry also confirmed it would temporarily reduce tariffs on US car imports from 40% to 15%, beginning on 1 January.”

    Boehm is just a disgrace.

    1. Last week’s news.

      The much anticipated moves follow a truce reached after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in December.

      In announcing the tariff suspension, China said it hoped the two sides would speed negotiations.

      US officials hailed China’s purchase of 1.13 million tonnes of US soybeans on Thursday as a “great step” – but said it remained uncertain if a broader deal would follow.

      “Having a million, million-and-a-half tonnes is great, it’s wonderful, it’s a great step,” said Steve Censky deputy secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.

      “But there needs to be a lot more as well, especially if you consider it in a normal, typical year, we’ll be selling 30 to 35 million metric tonnes to China.”

      Analysts also cautioned against interpreting it as a sign that the trade war was cooling.

      Meanwhile Mister Market has yet another sad. Down 2% or so.

      I’m tired of the winning already.

    2. My stock portfolio is killing it!

      Im on track to clear 8% gains in 2018. 22% from 2017.

      Falling stocks just means that I will buy more. Then when they go back up, I sell.

      1. Poor Lefty trolls think making money is tied to the ups or downs of the DOW Jones average.

        Its an average, you morons. Some are still gaining and some are losing.

        Tech stocks are losing because their stocks were overpriced.

        1. Lulz. You really are a retard just like everyone says on this forum.

        2. Poor troll. Doesnt know how the stock market works and thinks Lefty trolls mean anything on Reason.

  13. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you .

  14. it’s a complex issue and can not be resolve overnight but I believe that good trade relation will not just beneficial for macro economic but also the micro economy as various business and security markets are affected by it.
    Best Forex Signals

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.