Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting
71 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 2016
This paper studies how international trade influences U.S. presidential elections. We expect the positive employment effects of expanding exports to increase support for the incumbent’s party, and job insecurity from import competition to diminish such support. Our national-level models show for the first time that increasing imports are associated with decreasing incumbent vote shares, and increasing exports correlate with increasing vote shares for incumbents. These effects are large and politically consequential. We also construct U.S. county-level measures of employment in high- and low-skill tradable activities. We find increases in incumbent vote shares in counties with concentrations of employment in high-skilled tradable goods and services, and decreases in counties with concentrations of employment in low-skilled manufactured goods. Incumbent parties are particularly vulnerable to losing votes in swing states with high concentrations of low-skilled manufacturing workers with increasing trade exposure. Thus there is an Electoral College incentive to protect this sector.
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