Why Does Import Competition Favor Republicans?

42 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 7 Oct 2018

See all articles by Andrea Cerrato

Andrea Cerrato

University of California, Berkeley

Federico Maria Ferrara

University of Geneva - Department of Political Science and International Relations

Francesco Ruggieri

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 30, 2018

Abstract

Evidence that local exposure to Chinese import competition favors right-wing parties has often been attributed to the success of economic nationalism. We advance an alternative account. Trade shocks catalyze cultural backlash, which drives support for conservative candidates, as they compete electorally by targeting out-groups. We test this hypothesis in the 2008-2016 U.S. Presidential elections. First, a quantitative text analysis of campaign speeches shows that Republican candidates moved from support of free trade to protectionism, but they consistently assumed harsher stances on immigration and minority inclusion. Second, using individual-level survey data, we provide evidence that Chinese import shocks drive negative attitudes towards immigrants and minorities. Opinions about free trade are not affected. Finally, a causal mediation analysis highlights that attitudes towards out-groups mediate the effect of localized trade shocks on voting behavior. Altogether, these results point to the role played by trade-induced cultural backlash in shaping political outcomes in the U.S.

Keywords: Import Competition, Economic Globalization, Individual Attitudes, Voting Behavior, Quantitative Text Analysis, Causal Mediation Analysis

Suggested Citation

Cerrato, Andrea and Ferrara, Federico Maria and Ruggieri, Francesco, Why Does Import Competition Favor Republicans? (September 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147169 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3147169

Andrea Cerrato

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Federico Maria Ferrara (Contact Author)

University of Geneva - Department of Political Science and International Relations ( email )

40 boulevard du Pont d'Arve
Genève 4, CH-1211
Switzerland

Francesco Ruggieri

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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