Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting

71 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016

See all articles by J. Bradford Jensen

J. Bradford Jensen

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy; Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics

Dennis P. Quinn

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy

Stephen J. Weymouth

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Jensen, J. Bradford and Quinn, Dennis P. and Weymouth, Stephen J., Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on U.S. Presidential Voting (January 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w21899. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2717310

J. Bradford Jensen (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Dennis P. Quinn

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Stephen J. Weymouth

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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