How can Economic Interests Influence Support for Free Trade?

30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 29 Aug 2010

See all articles by Benjamin O. Fordham

Benjamin O. Fordham

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Katja B. Kleinberg

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Recent research on the sources of individual attitudes toward trade policy comes to very different conclusions about the role of economic self-interest. The skeptical view, expressed most pointedly by Mansfield and Mutz (2009), suggests instead that longstanding symbolic predispositions and sociotropic perceptions shape trade policy opinions more than one's own material well-being. We believe this conclusion is premature for two reasons. First, the practice of using one attitude to predict another raises questions about direction of causation that cannot be answered with the data at hand. This problem is most obvious when questions about the expected impact of trade are used to predict opinions about trade policy. Second, the understanding of self-interest employed in most studies of trade policy attitudes is unrealistically narrow. In reality, the close relationship between individual economic interests and the interests of the groups in which individuals are embedded creates indirect pathways through which one's position in the economy can shape individual trade policy preferences. We use the data employed by Mansfield and Mutz (2009) to support our argument that a more complete account of trade attitude formation is needed and that in such an account economic interests may yet play an important role.

Keywords: Trade, Public Opinion, Economic Self-Interest

Suggested Citation

Fordham, Benjamin O. and Kleinberg, Katja B., How can Economic Interests Influence Support for Free Trade? (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642142

Benjamin O. Fordham (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.benjaminfordham.com/

Katja B. Kleinberg

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
United States
6077776043 (Phone)

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