Explaining Mass Support for Agricultural Protectionism: Evidence from a Survey Experiment During the Global Recession
58 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 23, 2010
Why do citizens in advanced industrialized countries bear the high price of agricultural products? Conventional wisdom suggests that agricultural interests secure government protection because producers are concentrated and better politically organized than diffused consumers. Due to its focus on producer capacity for collective action, however, the literature fails to account for the high levels of mass support for agricultural protectionism in advanced industrialized nations. This paper presents new evidence from a survey experiment in Japan conducted during the current global recession (December 2008) that accounts for this puzzle. Using randomly assigned visual stimuli, the experiment activates respondents’ identification with either producer or consumer interests and proceeds to ask attitudinal questions regarding food imports. The results suggest that consumer-priming has no reductive or additive effects on the respondents’ support for liberalizing food imports. Surprisingly, the producer-priming increases respondents’ opposition to food import, particularly among those who fear future job insecurity. We further disentangle the puzzling finding that consumers think like producers for the issue of food import along two mechanisms: “sympathy” for farmers and “projection” of their own job insecurities. The results lend strong support to the projection hypothesis.
Keywords: trade, agriculture, protectionism, public opinion, consumers
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